With the growth of the undocumented Hispanic community in Houston, organizations like the 106-year-old Neighborhood Centers Inc. have had to reinvent themselves to take care of the needs of an important part of the local population.

The outfit has dozens of offices in greater Houston, where it offers services such as educational courses, social aid and programs aimed at helping low-income people.

Over the last decade, one of the services that has generated the greatest response from the community is the Immigration & Citizenship Assistance & Forums program.

The program's director, Mexican-born Ana McNaught, says that what her organization is seeking is to develop economic and educational strength within the community and it directs its efforts at the immigrants in the area.

"And it's not only trying to make them feel welcome in their new phase as new immigrants, but also for those who've already been here for a long time and haven't regularized their immigration status to begin to do so," she emphasized.

A few weeks ago, Neighborhood Centers launched a campaign to help qualified undocumented youths who sign up in a program cover the expenses of applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which offers them a reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The organization focuses its efforts through volunteering, which is the way it brings its services to places where civic intervention is lacking.

Oscar Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant born in Mexico, has been working as a volunteer with Neighborhood Centers for several years and, he said, there's a natural attraction between an organization with enough credibility and a community that at times is afraid to come to get help.

"Because this is not only about seeking help to see how we solve a problem, we also want (the community) to think, to involve ourselves not necessarily in immigration but also in health, politics, art, etc.," Hernandez said. EFE