Casa Latina supports Spanish-speaking immigrants in Federal Way

Organization connects people to work and education opportunities.

Casa Latina is a home for many Spanish-speaking immigrants in Federal Way.

Casa Latina is a nonprofit that opened its Federal Way office one year ago, but they’ve been around since 1994 in Seattle. Their main clients are Spanish-speaking Latin American immigrants who need help connecting to jobs and other social services. They offer a variation of education, such as English classes. Additionally, they’re part of community organizing efforts to support domestic workers.

“They’ve helped me in a lot of different ways,” said Griselda Orozco, who’s been a Casa Latina client for about 10 years. Orozco said Casa Latina has helped her through their English classes, along with looking for work and getting connected to other help. But now, Orozco said she gives back to women who are new to the area and need the same support she needed when she first found Casa Latina.

Orozco is from Mexico City, Mexico, and in 1999, she moved to the U.S. and landed in Federal Way. Orozco said she moved to the U.S. for the same reason as many other Latinos — to live a better life.

“More than anything, [we moved] because of the economic situation. We already had two daughters, and life was very hard over there,” Orozco said. “Economically, we’re better, but you’re alone here. Here there is a possibility of more economic solvency, but the family is over there. So it’s one or the other.”

Orozco first got involved with Casa Latina through their program “Mujeres sin Fronteras,” or in English, “Women without Borders.” This program gathers women who are domestic workers to advocate for their dignity and working conditions. Orozco said during the “Mujeres sin Fronteras” meeting, she and others discussed topics such as immigration and their daily struggles. Partly, she said it was a support group where fellow Latina women could be there for one another.

Orozco said when the COVID-19 pandemic began, she stopped involving herself with Casa Latina because everything was through Zoom. She said she doesn’t use technology much and prefers fellowshipping with other women in person. But about six months ago, Orozco said she heard about the new location in Federal Way and got involved. Now she’s at Casa Latina whenever she’s not working so she can mentor other women. She said Casa Latina is like a family to her, and she helps however she can.

“For example, if I know a way I can help them, I’ll tell them about it. Like if they want to go to the hospital, food banks, or if they’re looking for a place to live, if I know somewhere, I’ll give them the info,” she said.

Connecting people to work

Casa Latina south site director Veronique Facchinelli said in Federal Way, the main focus is connecting people to work, and the work they focus on at the Federal Way site is house cleaning services. She said many of the people who come to Casa Latina’s Federal Way office looking for work are women, but the opportunities are open for everyone.

Facchinelli said Casa Latina is not an employment agency. Instead, they connect individuals to people looking to have their houses cleaned. From there, the workers and the employer build a working relationship, and many women begin to have more cleaning jobs through the initial employer’s recommendations. She said they also serve as a hub of information for resources for immigrant families to support their transition to living in the U.S.

South site coordinator Yuliana Chaparro said if someone comes to them and has never cleaned houses before, to get them started, Casa Latina has a class that teaches people how to clean and how to be environmentally friendly when they clean. She said they do what they need to support these people who are often going through a new experience.

“We support our members in every way that we can. Even if they don’t have experience in this type of work, they can call us at any time,” Chaparro said. “One time, I was on a video call with a lady because she didn’t know how to clean a stove. She said, ‘How do I do it?’ I told her to put on the video, and we were on the video call, and I told her, ‘You do it this way and that way,’ so they feel supported in that way, that Casa Latina is with them in the process.”

Community organizing

Casa Latina’s main focus is connecting people with employment opportunities and education.

Jessica Salvador, co-executive director of people and organization for Casa Latina, said one of its other main focuses is community organizing. One example of their community organizing is when they helped pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights ordinance in Seattle. They partnered with Fair Work Center/Working WA, Harry Bridges Labor Center / UW, Legal Voice, Nanny Collective, NDWA, and SEIU775. This ordinance established labor protections for domestic workers in Seattle.

This was in Seattle, but Facchinelli said they plan to continue their community organizing efforts in Federal Way. She gave an example of a rent stabilization proposal they’re working to bring to Federal Way.

“There’s also a local campaign here for rent stabilization, which is specifically for Federal Way. But there are many cities in the south whose rent gets higher and higher,” Facchinelli said. “We’re a part of that coalition which is just starting to form, which is working on a proposal to the Federal Way City Council for rent not to increase too much.”

Casa Latina’s website can be found here.