Anita Gonzales, who is 78 and suffers from arthritis and other ailments, asked a friend to drive her to McPherson Elementary School on Saturday to have her blood pressure, cholesterol and weight assessed. Later that morning, Jesus Medina Lopez, who turns 80 this year, stopped by the health fair, too. He wanted information on how to become a U.S. citizen, he said.
The two Napa residents were among 50-plus Latino seniors who participated in “Pasaporte,” a special event of the Latino Elder Coalition. The coalition, which includes Clinic Ole, Legal Aid of Napa Valley, Napa Valley Hospice and Adult Day Services, the Napa County district attorney’s office and others, reaches out to seniors who do not speak English to ensure that they gain access to medical and social services and do not fall through the cracks.
Saturday’s event, sponsored by the Napa Valley Community Foundation and Queen of the Valley Medical Center, also offered introductions to mental health care and financial health, and presentations on mortgage fraud. Seniors were invited to take part in a yoga and low-impact exercise class.
“They’re very vulnerable; we’re here to help,” said Irma Luna, victim services advocate for the district attorney’s office. Seniors might not ask for help immediately, “but they will take our cards and they will call,” she said.
Cynthia Singerman, staff attorney with the Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, has worked with more than 200 clients throughout Napa County for the past four years, about half of whom are non-English-speaking. Her position is funded through the Napa Valley Community Foundation and United Way, she said.
Singerman’s presentation Saturday included an explanation on the foreclosure process in California, options for homeowners facing foreclosure and how to protect oneself from mortgage fraud.
Scam artists may charge thousands of dollars for loan-modification services and falsely claim there is no free help for people who do not speak English, she said before her presentation. Free services do exist, she said, adding that it is illegal in California to charge upfront fees for loan-modification services.
“There are a lot of scam artists who will market themselves directly to vulnerable communities,” Singerman said. “It’s always important to have access to accurate information from a trustworthy resource. We can offer education and help for folks that don’t necessarily have all these resources available to them.”