The National Puerto Rican Student Coalition had the opportunity to speak with Ángel Ortiz-Siberón, a young leader who works hand-in-hand with the Latinx communities in Philadelphia that are exposed to COVID-19 due to homelessness. This is what he had to say about his experience and efforts:
“I am originally from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and recently obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2019, I was named a Mellon Mays Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and a Harry S. Truman Scholar representing Puerto Rico. My research addresses the implications of racial and ethnic inequalities and social policies on the socioeconomic position of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. My honors thesis used data from the United States Census Bureau to analyze racial and regional disparities in homeownership attainment for stateside Puerto Ricans. My research has also focused on Philadelphia, one of the biggest Puerto Rican diaspora communities in the world that lays truth to the racial wealth gap affecting people of color in the U.S. I recently collaborated with Dr. Dennis Culhane from the University of Pennsylvania on a study examining barriers that Latinxs face when accessing homelessness services in Philadelphia. The published version of the study was featured on Telemundo’s local news program. I have presented my work at various conferences, such as the Society for the Study of Social Problems 2017 Annual Meeting in Montreal, Quebec and the Mellon Mays 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional Undergraduate Conference in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
"Furthermore, I have worked directly on social policy affairs at Ceiba, a nonprofit organization focused on economic empowerment for the Latinx population in Philadelphia, which is primarily Puerto Rican. In this role, I have met with members of the U.S. Congress, the Philadelphia City Council, and executives of local nonprofits to discuss ways to better support Latinxs experiencing housing insecurity. As Latinxs experiencing housing insecurity tend to live in overcrowded spaces, which increase the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, providing safe and stable housing to our community has never been more critical. I currently brief local nonprofits about the importance of homelessness prevention in our community and the funding streams to provide such services. We strive to strengthen community institutions, enhance interventions, and propose new solutions that put an end to homelessness in Latinx communities once and for all.
"The 2019 Encuentro in New York allowed me to connect with exemplary leaders in Puerto Rico and the diaspora and learn from their initiatives. I was also able to share some of my experiences in social policy research and practice at the 2019 Encuentro in Puerto Rico. It is paramount that similar events take place in different parts of the country so that young Puerto Rican leaders can continue to organize as a movement and for this movement to support each other’s extraordinary initiatives. Even in times of great adversity, these young leaders assure us that the future is very bright, and organizations such as the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and the National Puerto Rican Student Coalition are making tremendous strides in cultivating this great movement.”
Angel’s efforts with the empowerment for the Latinx population in Philadelphia is clearly reflected through the need for educating nonprofit organizations about homelessness prevention in uncertain times, such as through COVID-19. His formation and experience with the NPRSC has contributed to the movement of different initiatives that include these interventions and proposals for new situations affecting the Latinx communities around the United States.