- Associated Press - Monday, July 31, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Buying a house gave Guillermo Escalante a sense of pride.

And at the same time, it meant so much more: More space for his family of four, a place where his two young daughters can grow up and a sense of permanence.

It made their little corner of southern Sioux Falls feel more like home. The 42-year-old transplant from Chihuahua, Mexico, still wonders what would have happened if his family hadn’t gotten help.

“Because of that help, we found a real estate agent who can speak Spanish,” Escalante said. “My wife, she really felt comfortable with the situation.”

Help came from a downtown agency that offers home-buyer education, as well as classes in renting and how to manage debt or credit. The Sioux Empire Housing Partnership has been around for 20 years, but in recent years has made inroads with the region’s growing but still divided Hispanic community.

The Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/2h3xRtJ ) reports that Native Spanish speakers who move to Sioux Falls still struggle to find resources because of the language barrier, said Yesenia Gonzalez, education specialist for the Partnership. Even finding other Latinos and Hispanics in town can be difficult for newcomers.

“They don’t know about the programs,” Gonzalez said. “Sioux Falls is rich with programs.”

The downtown-based housing group offers a Spanish-language version of its website, along with paperwork and home buying education courses in Spanish.

Basic necessities are also hard to find because of South Dakota law. The state’s adoption of English as a common language blocks the translation of most public documents, with a few exceptions.

The law can affect anything from finding health care resources, earning a driver’s license to buying a home, said Alex Ramirez who serves on the city’s affordable housing commission.

“The work they’re doing is very valuable for our community,” Ramirez said. “Not only for the Hispanics that are taking advantage of this information, but it also helps having a happier workforce that will actually stick around.”

Gonzalez took it upon herself to translate much of the paperwork needed for buying a home in Sioux Falls. She works directly with families and has facilitated educational workshops by partnering with companies such as Gage Brothers and BX Civil and Construction.

“You see the need and you fill it,” Gonzalez said.

Escalante and his family lived for two years in a rented townhome before the move last May. They were ready to buy a home in Sioux Falls but they didn’t know where to get started. The language barrier was enough to confuse their efforts.

Escalante and his wife, Claudia Portillo, sat down with Gonzalez for long enough to walk through each step in the home-buying process. After about four hours, the couple was well versed in how to budget, find credit and connect with an agent, Escalante said.

Because he works full-time at GCC of America, much of the house hunting fell to his wife, who struggles more with English.

In the end, they were able to find a house that was more than a place to sleep and eat, Escalante said.

“We love it here,” Escalante said. “It’s what we need when we needed it.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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