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Professor's Book Defends Government


Professor's Book Defends Government

(July 28, 2000)

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development will recognize a University of California, Riverside program that helped farm workers get housing loans after their mobile homes were declared unsafe by county officials.

Lucia Ortega, who directed the program for UCR, will be in Washington D.C. Aug. 10 to receive a Best Practices award for the program. She and a group of volunteers met with farm workers at assistance centers, community halls and churches in the Coachella Valley to make sure the families got the help they needed. HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced the awards in June. The UCR program is one of four in Riverside County and 2,900 in the nation.

The Best Practices designation goes to well-managed HUD programs that make a difference in the lives of the people in the communities they serve, Coumo said. They serve as models of what government programs should do, he added.

Groups of students from UCR and other Inland Empire colleges, who are volunteer members of AmeriCorps and VISTA, helped 57 farm worker families fill out applications for new housing after county officials declared the mobile homes in which they were livi
ng unsafe. A total of 42 students participated, Ortega said.

"These homes have no air conditioning. Many have bare wires coming out of the walls," said Ortega, director of the University Eastside Community Collaborative, which organized the effort. "In one home, they had a towel wrapped around the refrigerator to keep it from electrocuting the kids, when they touched it."

Volunteers went to the fields where the workers toiled, to the markets where they shopped, and to the churches where they worshiped to help them apply for low-interest or no-interest loans. The volunteers went out two Saturdays each month from January to June to Oasis, Mecca, Thermal and Coachella.

"We literally walked them through the process of applying," Ortega said.

The UCR volunteers' efforts were part of a $21 million federal and county push to provide affordable housing in Riverside County, said Theresa Camiling, acting senior builder at HUD's Santa Ana office, which serves Riverside County. However, the UCR/AmeriCorps VISTA effort cost HUD nothing, Camiling added.

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo has said projects such as UCR's are, "A clear and compelling demonstration of how effectively and efficiently HUD funds are being used across the country...to improve the quality of the services HUD and its grantees provide to the American people."

The UCR/AmeriCorps VISTA project worked along with two other local programs that won recognition. They are:

* A $1.5 million effort to build a 330-unit mobile home park on the Torrez-Martinez Indian Reservation. It is funded by HUD, Riverside County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
* An effort to build 44 houses in the city of Coachella for farm worker families. The city committed $500,000. The USDA and HUD contributed a total of $1.8 million.

In both of these cases, the people being helped were also displaced from unsafe mobile home parks on the Coachella Valley.

AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers will be available for media interviews. They are:
Reyna Diaz (213) 215-1811 (Cellular telephone number)
Alicia Rivera (909) 351-9017
Kirk Burke (909) 212-9111 (Cellular telephone number)

Lucia Ortega can be reached at UCR, (909) 787-7694, extension 1576.
Theresa Camiling at HUD can be reached at (714) 796-5577, extension 3006.


The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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