Prince George’s County will open a multi-service center in Langley Park on Tuesday, officials said, the first of three government centers designed to deliver social services directly to communities that need them most.
Pregnant women will be able to get health screenings and doctor referrals, and residents can seek free job training or apply for federal food assistance, said Betty Hager Francis, deputy chief administrative officer for health, human services and education. Residents struggling with substance abuse will also find help at the center, she said.
Hager Francis said Langley Park was the first site to open because of the challenges faced by its largely immigrant population, which includes many people who are wary of contact with government agencies.
Hager Francis said she met with community groups, business representatives and civic leaders who advocated for Langley Park. But she said it was her conversations with young people especially — their stories of violence, alcoholism and broken families — that persuaded her to push for a multi-service center there.
“We just followed where the community led us,” she said. “We listened to what their needs were, and we followed what they told us.”
The center is on University Boulevard in La Union Mall, a shopping center that has several immigrant-owned businesses. It will also serve the nearby Bladensburg and Riverdale areas, which also have large numbers of Spanish-speaking residents.
The center is part of the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). Two more centers, in the central and southern sections of the county, are in the planning stages.
The Langley Park center will be open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday to accommodate people who cannot take time off from their day jobs. Its free services will include crisis intervention and small-business assistance. Most of the center’s 15 employees speak a foreign language, Hager Francis said.
Hager Francis said staff members will not question those seeking services about their immigration status. Although federal social services, such as Medicaid, are restricted to legal residents, children born to undocumented parents may be eligible for some of those programs.
Officials partnered with schools to advertise the center’s opening, sending information home with students in their backpacks.
William Hanna, a University of Maryland professor and community activist, said the center will fill a void. “The more services, the better,” he said. “Time will tell how many people will be there.”