Chris Coen weighs in on World Relief and Fort Wayne

Earlier this month we reported on a volag “cat fight” going on in Ft. Wayne, IN.  It seems that volag World Relief (Corporation of National Association of Evangelicals) is trying to horn in on Catholic Charities lucrative territory in Ft. Wayne.  

As we have reported many times on this blog, these agencies are paid by the head to resettle refugees and so they are often competitive.   In the case of Ft. Wayne there are huge numbers of Burmese going to that city which has put out the refugee welcome mat.   Those refugees want to bring family members to Ft. Wayne, and refugees in camps in Thailand also request resettlement in Ft. Wayne because they want to live near people like themselves.

This week the Journal Gazette in Ft. Wayne published this letter (scroll down) from Chris Coen of Friends of Refugees

Refugee agencies rife with problems

I saw the editorial “Helping refugees”  regarding World Relief’s proposal to open an office in Fort Wayne. I don’t know whether its presence in Fort Wayne will be good for all or not, but my experience with World Relief has not been positive. I am an independent volunteer assisting refugees since 2001. I started a group to monitor the U.S. refugee resettlement program with a small group of volunteers in 2002.

We found refugees who were being neglected and abused by their World Relief agency in 2003-05 north of Tampa, Fla. That refugee program was subsequently shuttered by the Department of State in 2006 because of the neglect of the refugees.

World Relief also seems to have some irregularities in its accounting.

In fairness to World Relief, though, there seem to be quite a few irregularities and neglect of refugees in the U.S Refugee Resettlement Program. There is also extensive documentation of Catholic Charities and the other eight national refugee resettlement agencies neglecting refugees. The State Department has done very little to clean up the problems.

CHRISTOPHER COEN Friends of Refugees Minneapolis

I have on my desk a GAO (General Accounting Office) investigative report on World Relief from 2004.  The report is highly critical of the volag which could not properly account for over $2 million in federal funds.  I don’t know if they have cleaned up the shoddy accounting practices or not.

One interesting little bit in the report was that when refugee numbers declined dramatically in the years immediately following 9/11, World Relief spent more federal dollars than the GAO thought reasonable.  I’m going to bet however that all the volags had a shopping spree during this time because the federal government responded to their plea for funding at the same level as pre-September 11th because the volags complained that they needed to keep offices open and paying staff in anticipation of a return to the higher number of refugees.     Bottomline is that we taxpayers paid for all these non-profits to stay in business even though the refugee numbers were extremely low for a couple of years.

A related matter appeared in the Journal Gazette in mid-June.

The Health Department in Ft. Wayne has been financially strapped due to the huge number of refugees that need vacinations and treatment for HIV and TB.   Buried in another article about outdoor cooking rules is this information:

Waldron [Health Dept. Administrator] said the county commissioners have indicated they will approve $2 million toward relocation of the infectious disease clinic.

With the growing demands in refugee care, the health department needs additional space, and commissioners have asked the department to explore existing clinic sites or other buildings that could be used by the health department. 

But, what can you do?   As I said earlier Ft. Wayne has put out the word that it is a “welcoming” city.

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