175 Languages Spoken Here: Obama's Housing Dept. Expands Services for Non-English Speakers

December 27, 2011 - 8:27 AM

HUD, Shaun Donovan

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan speaks in Denver on May 14, 2010. (AP File Photo/Ed Andrieski)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched a telephone service that will offer live, one-on-one interpretation services in more than 175 languages.

The HUD Language Line -- available nationwide -- will help HUD staff better communicate with "limited English proficient" people about HUD fair-housing programs, home ownership, lead abatement, housing assistance, and other HUD programs and services.

“Access to government should not be determined by how well a person speaks English,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The HUD Language Line is another example of HUD’s efforts to ensure that persons with limited English proficiency have equal access to HUD programs and services.”

When a non-English-speaking person contacts HUD, the staffer who takes the call will then contact the Language Line and speak with a live operator, who will connect the caller and HUD staff person with an interpreter who speaks the caller’s language.

Congress appropriated funds to HUD under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 to help ensure that individuals have access to housing information in languages other than English.

The HUD Language Line is a pilot program that will run through September 2012.

HUD also maintains a Web site that promotes equal access to housing programs by providing HUD forms and documents in 18 different languages, including Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Creole, Farsi, French, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese, in addition to English.