Partner spotlight: Bilingual housing counselor boosts inclusivity & accessibility

by  Samantha Smith, NCHT Sr Program Director & Manuela Ortiz, WHN Bilingual Housing Counselor

Since 2005, the Wyoming Housing Network (WHN) has been working to address the pressing demand for affordable housing across Wyoming. Since its inception, they have served thousands of individuals by providing a wide range of housing-related services, and in 2022, they reached hundreds of Natrona County families, including over 300 first-time homebuyer clients and 51 rental counseling clients.

Throughout its history, WHN has been committed to furthering fair housing and actively reaches out to underserved populations of Natrona County, including those for whom English is a second language. Approximately 20 percent of their client base identifies as Hispanic, so WHN has worked to provide marketing materials in Spanish and recently offered its financial foundation course in Spanish, thanks to a partnership with Parents as Teachers.

Still, WHN recognized that offering translated documents and an interpreter did not provide the same experience as that of their English-speaking clients. In the spring of 2023, they applied for a grant from the Natrona Collective Health Trust for funding that would allow them to hire a bilingual housing counselor.

As part of its mission to advance the well-being of young people in Natrona County, NCHT offers multi-year general operating grants to nonprofits whose work promotes positive childhood experiences for Natrona County families. Affordable and adequate housing plays a large role in that experience. WHN’s request was approved, and they were awarded a multi-year general operating grant totaling $120,000.

This grant has enabled them to onboard Manuela Ortiz, a certified HUD housing bilingual counselor, further bolstering their ability to provide essential resources to Spanish-speaking residents in Natrona County and across Wyoming.

The presence of a bilingual housing counselor is a valuable asset to the Natrona County community, as it fosters inclusivity and ensures the provision of effective and culturally sensitive support for prospective homebuyers. “I hope to help remove some of the fear and worry when it comes to establishing credit and owning a home in the U.S.,” Ortiz said.

Because home ownership is a key to establishing generational wealth, WHN’s efforts to reach underserved populations in Natrona County have the potential to create lasting and systemic change in our community.