Refugees in substandard housing in Springfield, MA
Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2013
The Mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts has asked the State Department to stop approving placement of refugees to the City by the two local refugee resettlement agencies due to concerns about refugees living in substandard housing, crimes against refugees, and strain on City resources including the school system. The substandard housing is an issue this blog has covered extensively. A few of the resettlement sites covered here include Columbus, Phoenix, Louisville, Bowling Green, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Omaha, Fredericksburg, Chicago, Houston (and here), Rockford, Knoxville, and Syracuse.
Mayor Sarno apparently attached five housing inspection reports to his letter to the State Department but those are not included in the copy accompanying the August 13th article in the The Republican newspaper. His comments in the letter about substandard housing conditions are here:
A video news report at WWLP -22News claims to show some of the conditions at these apartments, including this one showing rotted roof shingles, no hot running water and infestation with bugs:
Robert Marmor, president and CEO of the Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, said his agency “does not place any person or family in ‘uninhabitable’ residences or unsafe conditions,” while also claiming that his own personal inspection of eight apartments found two in poor condition due to “landlord negligence.” (See August 14, 2013 article in The Republican, Mayor Domenic Sarno’s call for freeze on more refugees in Springfield draws rebuttals). How were the eight apartments chosen as a sample?
The resettlement agencies are claiming they do not place refugees in substandard housing, yet the carefully chosen wording leaves open the possibility that apartment conditions soon deteriorate and refugees are either unable to communicate issues to the landlords or landlords are taking advantage of refugees’ lack of understanding about their housing rights. If so, where are the resettlement agencies when this occurs? Have they done enough to educate refugees about their housing rights? Do they monitor ongoing conditions after refugees track out of the short initial resettlement phase? What exactly have they done to help advocate for refugees living in substandard conditions? Notice that none of these basic questions are answered by the resettlement agencies’ short and apparently carefully constructed PR statements.
The Mayor for his part though should also explain what the City has done and is doing to deal with negligent landlords. Are there protections for tenants who may face retaliation when they report code violations to the City? Are local courts fair to community members who face eviction hearings or who take landlords to small claims court?
This entry was posted on August 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm and is filed under Congolese, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, Eritrean, HIAS, housing, housing, substandard, Iranian, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, LSS Lutheran Social Services of New England, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, rats and roaches, safety, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield. Tagged: code violations, Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, Lutheran Social services of new england, Massachusetts, refugees, resettlement, Robert Marmor, slumlord, springfield, substandard housing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.