Here is a story from Greensboro, NC about a Burmese refugee, resettled in North Carolina in 2007 who has become homeless, possibly the first* of many to come.
GREENSBORO — In a case that highlights thinning assistance for incoming refugees, a Burmese exile resettled through the United Nations has taken emergency shelter at Greensboro Urban Ministry.
Soe Win, 56, arrived in 2007 to be resettled by Lutheran Family Services. Now destitute and suffering from a breakdown, he arrived in mid-November at the homeless day center on East Bessemer Avenue.
There, volunteer social workers contacted Lutheran Family Services, but no services were available. [ Edit: I guess the social workers don’t know that these agencies, bring’em in, and in a few months it’s sink or swim for the unfortunate refugee. I forgot what they call it. It’s kind of like the tough love notion, but it’s just some excuse they came up with because they don’t have enough money or volunteers to do it right.]
“It may be the first case like this,” State Refugee Coordinator Marlene Myers said this week, “but it won’t be the last.”
Oh, what’s a few homeless refugees here and there and no jobs, what the heck, we still plan to bring thousands to NC this year! The Obama Administration announced it will keep the refugee numbers high even if we are in a recession. By the way, the reason you don’t hear about more Burmese homeless, as we learned in Bowling Green, is that they just move in with each other—two and three families to an apartment!
Myers was in Greensboro this week to meet with a network of local providers who are expected to help resettle 800 of the state’s anticipated 2,100 new refugee arrivals this year.
Guilford County has led the state in resettling political refugees because four local nonprofit agencies have contracts to do so: Lutheran Family Services, Church World Services, World Relief of High Point and N.C. African Services Coalition. Refugees are resettled within a 50-mile radius of the agencies. [I’ve highlighted the agencies just so readers will know who exactly is responsible for the refugees’ situations.]
I especially want to remind readers that back in February we learned that Lutheran Family Services was cutting back because refugees were not finding work, but that Church World Service was just picking up where they left off.
And, what a coincidence, no interpreters for the various Burmese language dialects here either.
At the Interactive Resource Center on East Bessemer, where Win showed up earlier this month, social workers contacted Lutheran Family Services to ask for help. Win’s caseworker, Halat Mlo, said Friday that the agency has no Burmese interpreters and that no services were available beyond a client’s initial year.
UNCG social work graduate student Jennifer Clark said LFS gave her the same answer earlier this month when Win showed up at the day center where Clark interns and the staff tried to find help for him.
“I was in desperate need of an interpreter, and I was kind of shocked that this (LFS) was the agency that everybody was referring me to,” Clark said.
“It would be like calling the health department for medication and being told, ‘We don’t do medication.’
Can I believe my eyes? Someone in the refugee industry is actually saying what the majority of Americans would say if they knew all this was even happening.
With so many North Carolinians out of work, Myers’ assistant, Pat Priest, observed that it might be human nature to question the importance of refugee resettlement.
But, of course we need to bring refugees because that is what defines America, whaaat?
I’m glad this woman is taking the initiative and helping without asking for more government money (well, at least I think she isn’t asking taxpayers), but this notion of refugees defining America is nuts.
In Angela Chavis’ view, however, refugees are what defines the United States. Recognizing the increasing need this winter and the lack of resources and coordination, she has organized a mutual assistance agency, HeavensGate World Services.
Ms. Chavis, is this about you and how you feel, or about this poor Mr. Win? Is he really better off in a homeless shelter in America than he would be with his own people in the camp in Thailand where he was culturally at ease and cared for by the UN? One of my many reform suggestions is that the agency that failed to settle a refugee in a job and a comfortable new life should pay the return airfare for any refugee wishing to go HOME!
That reminds me. A few days ago I came across this little article about Burmese refugees and resettlement in Europe and the US. Check out the lines I’ve highlighted. It looks to me that the western countries which have been taking Burmese are getting ready to turn off, or at least slow the flow of Burmese from the camps in Thailand. So we aren’t taking them all anyway! Maybe Mr. Win could go back to his family?
The European Union (EU) mission to Bangkok said it is the committed to “taking a new bold and longer-term steps for a better and more sustainable future for the refugees” and stands ready to work with the Thai government on this task.
In a press statement released after their two-day visit to Mae Lae refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border the EU noted that opportunity for resettlement to the US, Europe and elsewhere will not be available to all refugees.
Endnote: I wanted to know what was the magnet that drew 4 resettlement agencies to Greensboro, but right off hand I couldn’t find any chicken plant employers. I did find this article about Greensboro (Guilford County) being a refugee and immigrant mecca for quite some time. It must be one of those “welcoming” cities.
* Oops! A reader just reminded me there have been other homeless refugees we’ve written about. Here is one from Shelbyville, TN.