Recently, the Curious City team has been spending time in the West Ridge neighborhood, asking residents what topics they’re interested in and what questions they have about their community.
Because West Ridge is home to a lot of immigrants, a number of people we spoke with wanted to know how refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants access key resources — including health care and legal assistance — as they adjust to a new life in Chicago.
More specifically, a few people asked about the role community navigators play in this process: Who are they and how do they help their neighbors find what they need?
Community navigators are trained individuals who go door to door and help residents get connected with services including language support, health care and rental assistance.
The program started in Chicago in 2017 to inform new immigrants about their rights and connect them with trusted legal services. But since then, it’s morphed and expanded to help people access a wide variety of key social services. Currently, there are more than 20 organizations running similar programs across the state with about 600 paid community navigators.
To learn more about the program and the people on the ground, we spoke with Farhat Khatoon and Waniya Zahid, two navigators from Pakistan based at the Indo-American Center in West Ridge.
Farhat and Waniya say they do this work because they too had to figure out how to connect their families to resources like education and health care when they first arrived in Chicago.
“This kind of program … is very necessary, especially for immigrants who don’t speak the language, who don’t know where the library is — who don’t know where to go [to access resources],” Khatoon said.
Adriana Cardona-Maguigad is Curious City’s reporter. Follow her @AdrianaCardMag