Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program (CCRRP) has a rich history of serving primary refugees in our community since 1975. The Refugee Resettlement Program meets the regional needs of the refugees designated to resettle here, either through family reunification or as “free cases” assigned to our local community. New refugees are at their most vulnerable as they enter the United States. As the only resettlement agency in Southeastern Minnesota, CCRRP seeks to address the most fundamental needs of all new refugees such as access to shelter, food, clothing, income, medical care, education, and employment.
Operating under the umbrella of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/ Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) in collaboration with Department of State/Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (DOS/PRM), CCRRP carries out refugee services to address needs by providing direct case management and networking with the intention of building financial independence. Financial self-sufficiency is achieved through acquiring safe and stable housing, asset building, financial literacy training, and basic employment soft skills training which assists refugees in gaining the ability to secure employment, a more sustainable and significant source of financial independence. We also provide cultural, transportation, shopping and budgeting orientations.
This Year at a Glance
Customarily we resettle between 100-150 individuals each year. In fiscal year 2015, we resettled a total of 137 individuals (representing 54 separate cases) and cared for individuals and families from Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Burma (Myanmar), Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. We saw cases consisting of one individual to cases comprised of 6-10 individuals.
As a program, our greatest strength is our intensive client-centered case management. Goals established for refugees are intended to: address immediate social/educational needs, attain a stable environment, develop skills for employment, understand basic financial principles, and promote seamless integration. The process we utilize entails an intake and assessment, goal development, intervention, referrals, monitoring and reassessing throughout the service period and transitioning services seamlessly to other service providers at the end of the 90 day resettlement period. The goal of resettlement is empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills that will assist them on the road to self-sufficiency. Refugees want what many Americans want: to feel a part of their community, gain employment, and ultimately find a place to call “home.”
A Refugee Story
One such family seeking a place to call “home” arrived in Rochester, MN in April with his wife, their two young children and his elderly mother-in-law. Originally from the Ethiopia, this refugee and his family fled violence in their country to find themselves in a refugee camp in Kenya, where thousands of other refugees fought over limited resources and few opportunities existed. The family was greeted at the airport by two Catholic Charities case managers and by family members that had traveled from Austin, MN to greet them. The refugee said that after a long and difficult journey he was immediately encouraged and inspired by the words of his case managers, both of whom were former refugees themselves. Although at first he says he was intimidated and afraid, Catholic Charities staff and volunteers helped to orient him and make him feel safe in his new community.
Over the course of their 3 month service period with Catholic Charities, the program was able to help the family secure stable housing, furniture, clothing and household necessities. The gentleman and his wife participated in orientation workshops to help them learn American systems and customs, and in one-on-one job development sessions to help them find work. He and his wife both found good jobs while working with the Match Grant Program (an early employment program), and he was able to enroll part-time as a student in community college, where he is working to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant license. His wife is enrolled in English and computer classes and hopes to obtain her GED. To accomplish all of these great things over a period of only six months required tremendous dedication, courage, and hard-work from him and his family, but he says that he was inspired by the kindness of the community in Rochester and by the example set by former refugees. He says that “what I have gone through is great, but what I can be here is greater”.
Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement continues to facilitate the Match Grant employment program, which assists refugees that arrive with work history and some fluency in finding employment within 180 days after their arrival. Match Grant services include resume building, employment soft skills training, interviewing skills training, job search assistance, and post-employment advocacy and mediation. Our program also facilitates the Refugee Cash Assistance program. This is a government-funded program for single adults.
Refugees’ gaining financial literacy skills has been recognized as one of the most important components to helping refugees move towards financial stability. We provide each refugee that arrives through our program with two classes on financial literacy that cover topics such as the difference between needs and wants, establishing savings, setting long-term financial goals, asset building, and various budgeting techniques. Classes are provided in various languages and interpretation assistance is also provided.
Volunteers/Organizations Making a Difference
In fiscal year 2015, CCRRP continued its wonderful collaboration with Winona State Social Work Program. The collaboration provides a unique opportunity for students to learn and gain valuable insight about barriers facing refugees and to learn about Refugee Resettlement through volunteerism. We had over 20 students volunteer with the program. The students continue to be extraordinary advocates for the program through their advocacy efforts and fundraising. The program also continues to recruit volunteers to act as mentors to newly arrived refugees to assist them in adjusting to life in the United States. Our outreach efforts also consist of asking those in our community to donate household items (beds/tables/chairs, etc) and other necessities through our Children’s Welcome Baskets, Hygiene Bags, Cleaning Supply Kits, Survival Kits and our request for new pillows. These kits/baskets continue to be a wonderful way to individuals and groups that want to support refugees in our community, to assist them in gaining the basic items needed as they establish themselves in the community. Each family, depending on the size, receives an estimated $1,000-$2000 dollars in donated items, completely from the generosity of the people in our community.
Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program was honored again by the Knights of Columbus with an award of $3,250 to support refugees in our program by assisting them in accessing and gaining driving skills training so that they are able to pass both the written permit and behind the wheel road test, as well as gain knowledge on proper driving techniques. A large barrier for many refugees seeking employment is transportation and by assisting them in obtaining a driver’s license they are better able to gain employment and become more financially stable and independent.
Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program’s mission is to meet the needs of newly arrived refugees by providing one on-one-case management to guide them on their new journey and empower them in their new life.