Zineb Outnouna, a Moroccan immigrant who came to Pittsburgh in 1999, is among the many immigrants at the Hill House listening to Betty Cruz, Director of Special Initiatives at the Mayor’s Office. She is talking about the work that she and the 40-member strong Welcoming Pittsburgh advisory council have been doing for the past few months.
Welcoming Pittsburgh, an initiative charged with crafting a plan to ensure that the City is livable for all its residents, is holding five community meetings targeted at individuals who can help spread the word about surveys that the initiative has launched. The surveys represent the second phase of Welcoming Pittsburgh’s work and are designed to help prioritize and shape a strategic plan set to be released in May 2015.
After many years of the opposite, the last Census showed the city experiencing positive net migration with more immigrants choosing to move here. Last week, NEXTpittsburgh covered the rise in bilingual schools in the City—a clear signal of a diversifying population. Mayor Bill Peduto wants that number to keep on rising, setting a goal of 20,000 new immigrants by 2025.
“Since the launch of our community outreach phase this week, we have received a tremendous outpouring of interest and support from Pittsburghers of all walks of life,” says Cruz. “This is incredibly reassuring, underscoring that there is a need for Welcoming Pittsburgh and that the broader community is ready to take part.”
In the meeting, Outuna and other Pittsburgh immigrants shared the challenges they faced when they first moved to the City. Not knowing where to turn was a common theme in the open forum.
“One of the most moving experiences has been seeing so many people who are eager to tell their story,” says Cruz.
The stories also reflect immigrant resilience. Since moving to Pittsburgh 15 years ago, Outnouna has built a thriving and growing company that provides language learning and translation services. Upon hearing that the Welcoming Pittsburgh survey has only been translated to Spanish and Nepali, she offered to translate the survey to eight more languages—for free, as part of her service to the City that she now calls home.