Latino residents of Washington's Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant sections have substantially higher rates of unemployment, live in poorer housing, and earn far less than their black or white neighbors, according to a study prepared for the District's Office of Latino Affairs.
Many of these unemployed have been without jobs for more than a year, the study found, and fewer than 9 out of 10 receive any unemployment benefits.
The $72,000 study, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, focuses on the problems of the area's Latino community as well as the type and quality of the housing occupied by residents of the area. City planners hope it will enable them to better deal with housing and other needs of the community.
Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant, which the study estimates have a combined population of about 43,000 have long been principal residential areas for Hispanics. But governmental concern has mounted over the last five years as more and more of the low-income residents there have been displaced from rental housing by the sale of old houses to young, middleclass whites returning to the city and the conversion of other properties to condominiums, which the old-time-residents cannot afford.
For the 8,315 Hispanics who the study believes are living in the area, the problems are especially acute. Slightly under one-half of the Latinos surveyed said they could not speak English well or at all, and community workers say because of that, the Latinos are not always aware of their rights as tenants.
As a result, according to community activists like Angel L. Irene, executive director of the Council of the Hispanic Community and Agencies, landlords feel less constrained to maintain buildings they are going to sell or convert to condominiums soon.
Just over 65 percent of those Latinos surveyed, for instance, reported that they had broken kitchen appliances, 80 percent reported broken windows that had not been repaired, and almost 90 percent said that doors to the street in their buildings do not lock.
That same language barrier is used byothers to explain why so few latinos receive unemployment compensation.
"A large percentage of people honestly don't know what their rights are, partly because of the language barrier," said Sharon Armuelles, director of Ayuda, a community aid agency. "Others are simply intimidated by the bureaucracy."
One community volunteer, who asked not to be identified, said that many of the Latinos are also undocumented -- they are here illegally -- and if they live in a household with documented workers, those legal workers will not apply for benefits if they lose their jobs because they do not want to draw attention to their family.
Another reason, the volunteer said, is that many documented workers will not apply for unemployment compensation even if they are entitled to it simply because, if they do, they will not qualify under immigration reguations as sponsors for family members or friends they may hope to bring into the country at some future date.
The high unemployment rate, which the survey's sample showed to be about 16 percent, or more than twice that of the city as a whole, is attributed by Irene to the type of work the Laitnos do.
"They work in service jobs, such as in restaurants," he said. "Hispanics are more likely to be laid off becuase of budget cuts or other reasons when the economy goes bad."
Aida Berio, director of the city's Latino Affairs Office, refused to to comment on the report yesterday, saying that a public statement would be made when it is formally released in the next few days.
But one official source said that the timing of the report is important because of the nation's economic situation.
"The city is going to be looking for things it can cut from its budget," the source said. "Many of the (Latino) community service organizations receive city money. The real usefulness of this report is that it shows the need of the community, and the city must be sensitive to them. But there is going to be a cut, believe me, in everything."
Income distribution showed that white families earned $19,783, black households $10,237, and Latinos $10,037. Because both the white and black households in the survey averaged 2.1 members and the Lantinos 3.2 members, the income disparity is much greater, however, with black households earning in effect one-third more per member than Latinos.
The survey, conducted last fall, was based on attempts to interview at random 2,458 households. An overall response of 53 percent was attained, and the 230 Latino families identified in the sample were interviewed in depth on a second occasion if they could be contacted again.