Jewish Vocational Services (again): Questions about compassion for refugees and for the communities into which they are placed

That’s a question I’ve been wondering about for the last six years.

Do federal refugee resettlement contractors love (really love!) the people they are bringing to your cities and towns or is it just a job?  Or, perhaps it’s the case that they are more in love with the idea of helping third-worlders come to America and are set back by the reality of the actual refugees who oftentimes complain to the agency, don’t do what they are instructed, want ever-more stuff, and don’t exhibit sufficient gratitude.

Steve Weitcamp, JVS Director of Refugee Services at his desk. Photo: Emily Henson

And, never mind the troublesome Americans who have certain expectations of the agency and their new neighbors.

Those are all the things this story about Jewish Vocational Services, coincidentally from Missouri (multicultural St. Louis has dominated our news in the last few days), brought to mind.  From Kansas City’s Northeast News back in February, thanks to a reader (emphasis mine):

February 20, 2013

Recently here at the House of News we’ve been having issues with people illegally dumping their trash bags on our property next to our dumpster. Last week, we caught the culprit in the act, an African woman who was recently settled in the house behind us by the folks at Jewish Vocational Services. We advised the woman that she had free trash service, allowing up to two bags weekly at her curb. The language barrier barred any two-way communication, however, until another member of the household stepped out and we were able to communicate the necessary information regarding their scheduled trash day.

We then contacted JVS and spoke with Director of Refugee Programs Steve Weitkamp in regard to the acclimation training JVS says they give all of their settled refugees. When this feisty newshound asked Weitkamp if trash day was part of their refugee training, his initial response indicated his tacit endorsement of his client illegally dumping trash on someone else’s property. When queried again about whether anyone at JVS tells their re-settled refugees about proper trash disposal, his insensitive and completely callous response was, and we quote: “We don’t tell them to go out in the streets and light themselves on fire, but they do anyway.”

We’ll just let that sink in for a moment. This is the director of Refugee Programs throwing the re-settled refugee community wholly under the bus with his cynical and uncaring response to a genuine concern about the behavior of someone JVS re-settled and failed to educate properly on how trash is disposed of in Kansas City.

This news-pooch isn’t exactly sure what prompted such a callous response from the person charged with overseeing programs administered to and for refugees, but we think it speaks volumes as to his elitist and condescending attitude toward the very refugee clients he allegedly serves through JVS.

Mr. Weitkamp, if you think so little of the refugees your agency is literally dumping in Northeast, this newshound thinks maybe it’s time you found another line of work.

Jewish Vocational Services of Kansas City has had problems going back for several years as we note in our archive on the troubled contractor.

I assume from this list of funders that JVS is still a subcontractor of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

Photo is from this 2010 story.

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