The Houston Housing Authority Ensures Vital Communication for Bellerive Evacuees

December 19, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
On the morning of November 26, 2007, the Bellerive high-rise apartments caught fire creating a four-alarm nightmare for over 200 residents and a significant challenge for the Houston Housing Authority.

The essentials of disaster relief from the Bellerive apartment fire included food and shelter, but also at the top of the list was language assistance. The Houston Housing Authority was challenged to communicate efficiently with many of the 200+ evacuees from the apartment fire due to a language barrier. Approximately 50% of the residents of the Bellerive Apartments speak little or no English. Aside from losing their homes, residents had to deal with the legal aspects of being transferred to one of three alternate locations, claiming their belongings, and completing lots of paperwork for assistance.

The Houston Housing Authority called upon MasterWord Services to provide interpreters and translations for multiple languages including Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean to facilitate communication between HHA staff and their evacuees. Interpreters were immediately sent to three temporary relocation sites around Houston to assist the evacuees with the aftermath.

“Written and oral translation played a critical role in allowing Housing Authority staff and service providers to clearly communicate with all residents in order to quickly stabilize and relocate them to temporary housing,” said Steve Mikelman, the Houston Housing Authority’s Chief of Staff.

Over 150 languages are spoken in the homes of HISD and over 30% of the Houston population speaks a language other than English in the home. About half a million residents of Houston speak little or no English, and the top languages spoken are Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, French, and Urdu.

“Being responsive to the needs of our clients is our number-one priority and is the reason why so many leading concerns rely on MasterWord for their multilingual communication needs” stated Mila Green, president and founder of MasterWord Services.

As the Houston Housing Authority works on rebuilding the Bellerive Apartments, the evacuees have begun work on rebuilding what was lost from their lives. “The interpreters were ALL excellent and really knew how to handle this difficult situation. I can certainly vouch for MasterWord!” Cheryl Rivers with the Houston Housing Authority remarked.