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Group Breaks Ground For Migrant Worker Housing Development

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CLINTON — Help is on the way for one of the fastest growing and poorest groups in our community. Groundbreaking for an affordable housing complex for Hispanic farm workers was held Friday in Sampson County.

The project is aimed at workers who work in the state year-round. They often bring their families with them, and they have very little money to find good housing on their own.

"It's just something that makes you want to reach out and do whatever you can to help," said Homer Marshall, community activist.

After seeing Latino farm workers and their families living in bad conditions, Marshall and members of the Sampson County Minorities for Progressive Government sprung into action.

"There's no air. In the winter, there is no heat. The windows are out, and it is hard to think of living like that," said Valginia Ray, community activist.

It actually took the group five years to finally break ground on a million-dollar housing development for Latino farm families.

"On many occasions, it had been practically derailed. I was told there was no possibility of getting it funded. It just took perseverance and support," said Marshall.

The plans call for 24, two- and three-bedroom apartments, but a survey done by Marshall's group shows that there are hundreds of other Latino families in Sampson County still in need.

"It's just the beginning. It's nothing to get up on the roof top and shout about. It's just a meager beginning," said Marshall.

North Carolina's Latino population has doubled in the last decade to over 200,000 people.

Migrant farm workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and they get very little in return.

Aside from on-the-job risks, they are more likely to suffer from heat stress, skin ailments and infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

Thirty percent of migrant workers are uninsured or have limited access to medical care.

Even if they had access to a doctor, most could not afford it. In a recent survey, nearly 40 percent of migrant workers said they earn about $175 a week.

One out of three makes $250 a week, half the per capita income in Wake County.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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