LUCHA’s Director of Programs, Isaias Solis, recently accepted the position of Director of Operations and Communications with the South Bend Community School Corporation’s Empowerment Zone and will be transitioning effective October 4, 2019. In his new role, Isaias will work closely with Dr. Cheryl Camacho (Ph.D., Harvard University), Chief, South Bend Empowerment Zone, the South Bend Community School Corporation, Indiana Board of Education, the Empowerment Zone Board of Directors, school leadership, parents, students, and community to close the educational achievement gap for students enrolled in 4 elementary and 1 middle school in South Bend’s West Side public schools. He will support the important work of the Zone Chief to ensure that zone schools are well supported logistically and operationally so that principals can focus on delivering excellent academic results for students. While his absence will be felt at LUCHA, we are excited about this new opportunity for him.
During his tenure at LUCHA, which began December 2017, Isaias and his team led the launch of Department of Programs operations utilizing evidence-based and practiced-informed frameworks and theory of change models, consolidating all related services under one Department, growing the Department of Programs to a peak staff of 20, which included full-time staff, part-time staff, VISTA’s, interns, and volunteers. The Department of Programs additionally grew from a budget of $697,000 in 2017 to a budget of $3 million in 2019 and its client base grew by 250%, all from Chicagoans requesting LUCHA’s Department of Programs services, while maintaining a 95% client satisfaction rating (bi-annual client satisfaction surveys).
Under Isaias’ leadership, the Department of Program’s Housing Opportunities Program (HOP) successfully received US Department of Housing and Urban Development three-year recertification by successfully meeting all audit requirements with zero findings in 2018. Additionally, LUCHA’s Housing Opportunities Program housing counselors became the first group in the State of Illinois, as required by the new HUD published Housing Counseling Certification Requirements Final Rule, to become nationally HUD certified, one year in advance of the required deadline. HOP additionally fully implemented a cross-training model that allowed all counselors to be fully trained and certified in all six HUD core service areas. The Community Law Program was able to successfully secure a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) contract to perform real estate closings for all CHA Choose To Own clients and Isaias also worked closely with Staff Attorney Raisa Alicea to secure additional funding from HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative Program to provide much needed fair housing services, resources, and complaint filing support for Chicagoans who face housing discrimination. Additionally, the Resident & Community Services program transitioned from an information, navigation, and referral operation to implementing a rigorous housing stability case management model which incorporates a comprehensive and evidence-based client assessment tool developed by the University of Michigan to better assess and quickly address clients’ complex social service needs. All Department of Programs operations and data collection also became fully digitized with each program utilizing complementary Client Management Systems (CMS) further maximizing operational efficiency and impact. LUCHA’s Department of Programs also continued to evolve as a recognized leader in housing counseling and direct service delivery provider.
“When I relocated to the Greater Chicago Area in 2017 and took the role of Director of Programs, I clearly understood the urgency with which we needed to approach this work and I was deeply moved by the team in place and how they saw themselves as leaders in this work. Outside of providing direct services to the community, they saw themselves as empowered agents of change, with our daily work targeting deep rooted systemic and institutional barriers that have perpetuated the racial wealth gap in Chicago. Stabilizing individuals through case management services, educating and empowering through housing counseling services, and advocating for with legal services was a bridge to support our clients in achieving self-sufficiency.” To those ends, Isaias and his team prioritized community partnerships and expanding the array of services and service providers to ensure that our clients had options at their disposal. In collaboration with Chicago United for Equity, a racial equity leader in Chicago, the team further expanded LUCHA’s regional influence as a racial equity leader as it relates to redlining, mortgage lending, and housing affordability.
Isaias’s collaborative and community-minded spirit allowed him to partner and collaborate with practitioners across Chicago and the nation as he worked closely with the Latino Policy Forum’s Housing Acuerdo and Immigration Acuerdo, UnidosUS, NeighborWorks America, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Chicago Housing Authority, City of Chicago’s Department of Housing, Illinois Housing Development Authority, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, lending partners, and many other local organizations.
Board Member Julisa Sanchez remarks that, “Under Isaias’ leadership in the Department of Programs, LUCHA has continued to extend its network of partners who together with LUCHA have positively impacted many lives in our communities through high quality programming and services. Isaias’ fierce advocacy and focus on program growth and expansion has built a remarkable culture and expectations for programs and services at LUCHA. We are certain that he will be an outstanding leader in his new role addressing another important and complex issue – the educational achievement gap. We will miss him dearly and wish him the best in his new endeavor.”
According to Isaias, “LUCHA, the team, our community partners, and our clients will always hold a special place in my heart since we have built and cultivated many authentic and results-driven relationships, have created sustainable systems of operation, and have worked to ensure that every Chicagoan has access to safe, stable, and affordable housing. We have built strong and sustainable operations around systems that will ensure that continue the good work that the team has been engaging in over the years. The lessons learned and the personal and professional growth that I have experienced while at LUCHA are important lessons that I will carry with me in my next role. I look forward to continuing to promote the LUCHA brand and being a life-long ambassador, supporter, and cheerleader as LUCHA continues to grow, expand, and further cement its legacy in Chicago and the Midwest.” Many thanks and the highest congratulations, Isaias!
We at LUCHA are completing the transition process for the Department of Programs and will announce next steps shortly. Stay tuned!