Denver, CO

Spanish speakers needed to support Denver migrants, homeless coalition explains

David Heitz

The massive influx of migrants into Denver has made it apparent the city does not have enough Spanish translators to meet the need.

Colorado Coalition for the Homeless held a webinar last week on being Hispanic/Latino and homeless. At one point, the conversation turned to the city’s migrant response. “It was a big deal real fast,” said Nick Pacheco, a program coordinator for Servicios de la Raza. “I don’t Speak Spanish but somehow, I got my phone number into the hands of somebody who knows everyone. They’re calling around looking for resources. I had to learn quickly how to navigate using the translator.”

Pacheco said he is one of just a handful of Servicios de la Raza workers who don’t speak Spanish. Margarita Rodriguez, a registered nurse for the Coalition, also said that organization needs more Spanish-speaking employees.

‘Many people from Venezuela’

Rodriguez said Stout Street Clinic treats immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and “many people from Venezuela.” She said some of the early migrants represented professions such as doctors and engineers. They have applied to stay in the country. “There were people showing up in the beginning with mad skills,” Pacheco said.

Rodriguez said newer immigrants are younger, and many of the women are pregnant. “They are coming for so many different reasons, feeling unsafe in their countries, for medical reasons, because they don’t have jobs." The Coalition has had to figure out how to meet the needs of the different immigrants.

Homeless Coalition forced to adapt

The Coalition has had to translate numerous documents, such as the Patient’s Bill of Rights, into Spanish. They also have had to adapt to caring for many children. “All of a sudden we went from having a few kids per month to many more kids,” Rodriguez said.

The clinic now hosts a “pediatrics day” at least once per week. The staff is considering doing the same with obstetrics. Rodriguez said it can take two to four weeks to get an appointment.

Rodriguez said the Coalition realizes it will not be able to meet demand from the migrants. The Coalition currently sees about 135 obstetrics appointments per month, up from a previous average of about 35 per month, she said. She said the Coalition is reaching out to organizations such as Stride and Clinica to make referrals.

“How we meet these needs is a big concern,” Rodriguez said. “We’re at the beginning of this process, just trying to figure out how best to meet these needs and make people feel welcome and also refer when appropriate to other community health centers.”

Migrants grateful for help received

The Coalition’s director of communications, Alexis Witham, said the clinic does have a live translator available at all times via the telephone, but in-person translation is better.

Pacheco said the migrants express gratitude for everything they receive. He said he won’t accept donations for the migrants that are "rags." He has donated several pairs of his “Jordan shoes” to the cause, he added.

“Quality is everything to me,” Pacheco said. “I’m not going to give nobody no rags. If it is trashed or ripped, I’m throwing it away.”

Pacheco said the attitude at Servicios de La Raza is always to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of their clients. If there is something someone cannot help a client with, they will find someone who can that same day.

More than 20,000 migrants served

Migrants from the Southern border began pouring into Denver last December. After a leveling off in the flow of immigrants, they have begun to pour in again in recent weeks.

A whopping 305 migrants arrived Tuesday, according to the city’s online migrant dashboard. That appears to be the highest number arrived in Denver in one day since last December. On Wednesday, 203 more arrived.

The number of migrants served by Denver since last December has now exceeded 20,000. There currently are 2,000 migrants staying in non-city owned shelters in Denver.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

Denver, CO

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