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.
The Year at a Glance
We saw a large number of refugees this year with a total of 195 individuals (representing 73 separate cases) in FY 2016. Refugee individuals and families we cared for came from Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Burma (Myanmar), and Ethiopia. We saw cases consisting of one individual to cases comprised of 2-9 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
Aline, like many refugees before her, came to the United States because of war. Aline was a young mother of 5 children. When war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo her husband was one of the first to be killed. She stayed hoping that things would calm, and she was very hesitant to leave her home land. Unfortunately, that hope ended late one night when Aline and her children were forced to flee from terrorists who started their house on fire. “We fled into the bush in the middle of the night and walked and walked until we reached Uganda.”
Aline quickly realized there were many refugees already in Uganda and no future for them there, with limited resources and the constant fear that someone would recognize them and report their whereabouts to those seeking to harm them. “I knew we would not be safe until we left Africa,” Aline said. Unfortunately, the refugee process moves very slowly. Aline and her children lived in constant fear for 10 years until they were finally granted refugee legal status and were able to travel to the United States a year and a half ago.
Now Aline and her family call the United States “home.” During the first 3 months in the United States the Catholic Charities staff assisted her in securing safe and stable housing, clothing, food, and enrolled her youngest into school. Aline and her daughters enrolled in ESL classes and participated in employment services, finding employment very quickly. A year and a half later, Aline and her children work as well as attend school, with her two oldest now working their way through college.
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 2016, we saw an increase in volunteerism from our local community members. Several groups from various faith traditions participated in volunteering as Family Mentors, or collected important household items (beds/tables/chairs, new pillows, etc) and created Children’s Welcome Baskets, Hygiene Bags, Cleaning Supply Kits, and Survival Kits. 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. We are so thankful for the support from all the communities in Southern Minnesota that have helped us this year.
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.