For our regular readers there is really nothing new here, except maybe that this article is not about unemployed Iraqis who want to go home, but about a Bhutanese family (five of the soon to be 60,000 Bhutanese arriving in the US) trying to make it in Boise.
BOISE, Idaho – For 17 years, Dilli Ram Gautam was homeless, living in a Nepalese refugee camp.
Now, just 9 months after Gautam and his family moved into an apartment, he’s just a few weeks away from homelessness again – but this time in a strange town, strange state, and strange country.
Idaho officials say it’s never been harder, economically speaking, to be a refugee.
“There is a lot of stress. My wife and I worry about it, my children worry about it,” he said. “We thought before coming to the U.S. that our life would be better here – and the living condition is good, clean. The problem is that we have been homeless for 17 years, and we are afraid we will be homeless here as well.”
In Idaho, refugees are eligible for cash assistance for 8 months, said Wendy Morgan, spokeswoman for the Idaho Office of Refugees.
In fiscal year 2007, 92 percent of all refugee families in the state were employed before those benefits ran out, Morgan said. In 2008, that number dropped to 72 percent.
And in the first half of 2009, just 25 percent were able to find employment before their benefits ran out, Morgan said.
Note that the International Rescue Committee that closed a financially-strapped and decades-old office in Boston just this week, has opened an office in Boise recently.
The International Rescue Committee opened its Boise office three years ago.
I wish I better understood this territorial competition among the Top Ten federal refugee resettlement contractors*. Do they search out cities that appear “welcoming” and open offices even though there are already competitors resettling refugees in the same locale? We observed this very blatantly happening in Ft. Wayne, IN , so I’ve been wondering about the turf wars ever since.
Oh well, no matter, even if there are no jobs and refugees are worried about being homeless the US State Department is going to keep them flowing to your town or city.
Since October 2008, more than 600 refugees have arrived in Idaho, Morgan said. The Idaho Office of Refugees expects that number to reach 1,100 by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, and predicts that another 1,100 refugees could arrive in the state in 2010.
I’ve written often about Boise, here is a post from back in February where officials there were worried there might soon be tent cities in Idaho.
* It is such a misnomer to call these groups volags, short for voluntary organization, because they are not voluntary when they are being paid by the taxpayer for their services.