Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘dangerous neighborhoods’ Category

Catholic Charities of Orange County broke almost every rule in the book

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 6, 2016


Perusing a batch of US Department of State inspection reports recently received through a FOIA request it appears that Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) violated most of the requirements of their refugee resettlement contract. The State Department rated the agency [in 2014] as “mostly non-compliant” with requirements. CCOC left refugees with urgent medical issues on their own to find expedited medical care.  Children were not enrolled in school.  A refugee family was in an apartment that was unsafe and unsanitary. CCOC had refugees sign blank service plans; apparently to be filled in later. Staff did not understand the basics of the refugee grant requirements, and expected refugees’ ties [friends or family members that refugees have been resettled to live near] to provide basic services. A case manager did not even know of the existence of the Cooperative Agreement. CCOC did not have any volunteers to help assist refugees. Read below excepts from the report:

Monitors found Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) mostly non-compliant with Reception and Placement Program (R&P) requirements…

The affiliate does not use any volunteers…

…monitors visited one family whose children were not yet enrolled in school after over two months; another family who did not receive any assistance from the affiliate to make expedited medical appointments despite a child with epilepsy and a parent with heart disease (they complained to monitors that the affiliate showed little concern for their well-being); and a third family who described the apartment the affiliate secured for them as unsafe and unsanitary. Refugees visited did not recall receiving any [cultural] orientation and staff did not demonstrate a basic understanding of Cooperative Agreement requirements, and implied basic needs support and core service delivery was the responsibility of the US tie…

One refugee family [mentioned above] told monitors that they felt unsafe in the apartment the affiliate found for them after their US tie could no longer provide any assistance. They said homeless people often loitered on the front steps and neighbors often acted loud and drunk; consequently the father did not feel safe leaving his wife and young children alone during the day to look for work. The apartment had a clogged drain in the kitchen sink, a flickering overhead fluorescent light, and a purported insect infestation; all had been reported to the landlord [apparently to no effect]. The couple and their baby and toddler shared one small bedroom that scarcely fit a full size bed and a crib…the family have arrived close to three months before the monitors’ visit and was not enrolled in the Women’s, Infants, and Children (WIC) program…

Monitors reviewed 20 case files…case files did not contain evidence beyond a referral that the affiliate assisted refugees with enrollment in English language programs or employment services within ten working days of arrival. Eight files indicated that health assessments occurred beyond the required 30 days, and two files did not contain any evidence of a health screening…

Complete service plans were found in all but two files, which contained blank plans signed by the refugee… Read more here

Posted in beds, California, Catholic, Catholic Charities of Orange County, children, community/cultural orientation, Cooperative Agreement, dangerous neighborhoods, failure to enroll refugee children in school, furnishings, lack of, health, home visits, housing, housing, overcrowding, housing, substandard, Iranian, Iraqi, language interpretation/translation, lack of, late health screenings, medical care, rats and roaches, safety, Slumlords, volunteers | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Attacks on refugees in Syracuse delivered with racial slurs

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 4, 2016

As part of the ongoing attacks on refugees in Syracuse that resettlement agencies and the US State Department have know about for at least six years, refugees say that attackers are using racial slurs. An article at Time Warner Cable News has the details:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Nancy Ayea was resettled in Syracuse as a refugee from Burma, looking for a better life. But there have been obstacles to starting over.

“Our house got broken into and our window got broke into,” said Ayea. “And they took whatever they could find to resell it. My laptop and all that.”

And although she’s not a refugee herself, Kayla Kelechin’s husband was resettled from Southeast Asia. She says she and her husband have been victimized because of his background.

“There were stones being thrown through our windows,” said Kelechin. “We see them coming to our yard and attacking our children. They’ve thrown stones at our children and they’re like “Chinese, Chinese.” It always has to do with a racial slur. So we know it’s not the whole neighborhood — it’s us”… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic, children, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees continue to suffer abuse and violence on Syracuse’s North Side

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 25, 2016


Myanmar and Bhutanese refugees continue to suffer abuse and attacks on Syracuse’s North Side. Cases of home invasions and severe beatings. These attacks have gone on at least since 2009, yet the US State Department has continued to place the refugees in these neighborhoods, with around 1,000 refugees moving into the neighborhood each year.  Refugee children have also suffered attacks in school. I wrote to the PRM’s Assistant Secretary about this issue back in 2010.  An article at has the story:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A decade after fleeing an ethnic conflict in Asia, Chandra Pradham and his family are facing a different kind of violence on Syracuse’s North Side.

Pradham, his wife and three children fled Bhutan in the 1990s and spent more than a decade in a refugee camp in Nepal. Three years ago, they made it to Syracuse where Pradham and both of his teenage sons have been beaten up while walking in their neighborhood. Pradham spent a day in the hospital last month after a particularly brutal attack.

Among refugees, the Pradhams aren’t alone.

In the past several years, refugees on the North Side have reported beatings, robberies and home invasions. Lately, police and community leaders are coming together to address the problem… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Assistant Secretary of the PRM, Burma/Myanmar, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, Syracuse | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees in Rochester, NY still under attack

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 4, 2014


It’s now been almost two years since this blog reported on attacks occurring on refugees in Rochester, NY.  The US refugee program has not solved the problem and continues to resettle refugees to this known dangerous site.  The State Department’s resettlement office has made clear that it does not consider crime rates when deciding where to resettle this vulnerable group (refugees).  In 2012 Burmese refugees were under attack in the neighborhoods where the refugee program resettled them, and someone shot to death a Sudanese refugee.  Last month an article reported that Nepali-Bhutanese refugees were under repeated attack as well.  Another article in the Democrat & Chronicle documents the latest incidents:

Locked inside their house in northwest Rochester, the Nepalese family felt under siege.

Outside, a crowd of young men — 20 to 25 in number — broke windows to the home and threatened to storm inside, according to members of the family. Moments before, several young men had followed and jumped a Nepalese teen. That scuffle then escalated into the menacing gang…

It wasn’t until the police came that the crowd scattered. This incident, in daylight hours Thursday, is another in a growing list of attacks against South Asian refugee families who have been settled in areas of northwest Rochester near Jones Square…
As law enforcement officials decide how to curb the intimidation and violence, the refugees themselves say they feel ignored and left to fend for themselves…

Many of the refugees are hesitant to talk to police, and, when they do, they have not been able to provide much information about their attackers. Typically, the offenders have been young African-American men, creating a volatile situation in which the refugees feel at risk in the very neighborhoods where they have been resettled…

If deemed a “hate crime” — namely if evidence exists that the refugees are targeted because of their nationality and not simply because they may be seen as vulnerable — then there could be grounds for federal prosecutions…

Bill Wischmeyer, an advocate for the refugee community, said there were two other attacks on refugees this week, one on children playing soccer. Wischmeyer has been regularly contacting police, hoping to head off future violence.

Some of the refugees see the constant harassment as the opening salvos in a battle. Their supporters, meanwhile, try to assure them that the police will find means to protect them and help them find safety in their new home.

Wischmeyer came to the Parkway home on Thursday afternoon after the gang had left.

“I came over and it looked like a war zone,” he said. Read more here

Posted in abuse, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, elderly refugees, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, Rochester, State Department, teenagers, teens | 2 Comments »

Attacker of Albuquerque Iraqi Catholic refugee yelled anti-Muslim obscenities

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 17, 2014


An Iraqi Catholic refugee alleges she was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment and robbed of $20,000 in gold. Now the FBI is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime. An article in the Daily Reporter covers the story:

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — An Iraqi Catholic refugee who was assaulted in her Albuquerque apartment appears to be the victim of a hate crime by an attacker who yelled obscenities about Muslims, police said.

According to Albuquerque police, a man last week forced his way into the home of Seham Jaber, shouting nasty remarks about Muslims and punching her in the head and stomach. The intruder then tore up her family’s citizenship papers in the June 5 attack, investigators said.

“The irony is the individual thought the family was Muslim, and they’re actually refugees from Iraq who are Catholic,” Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said.

Jaber, who speaks Arabic, told police the unknown assailant also stole at least $20,000 in gold, which represented her family’s life savings. The assailant also stole jewelry, she said.

“No house, no car. It was all in gold,” Saad Sajet, Jaber’s husband, told the Albuquerque Journal.

The suspect was described as wearing a mask, jeans and a yellow T-shirt.

No arrest has been made.

The FBI now is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime, Albuquerque police said Friday… Read more here

Posted in anti-Islamic, Catholic, dangerous neighborhoods, FBI, hate crimes, Iraqi, New Mexico, police, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees preyed upon on Rochester NY streets

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014


Refugees in Rochester NY say they are fed up with being targeted for crime on the city’s streets. Ironically, many of these refugees do not report the crimes to police. Reportedly, the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Nepali-Bhutanese and other refugees are being committed by young men from the African-American community. There is some debate whether these attacks are hate crimes or if the young men are targeting the victims due to their vulnerability as immigrants. An article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle examines the issue:

Are the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Bhutanese, Nepali and other refugees by young men from the African-American community hate crimes or crimes of economics and opportunity?

Perhaps a little of both.

Former Rochester police chief James Sheppard, who now works as a mentor to young African-American men whose lives have gone down paths of crime, downplayed tagging the crimes as “hate crimes” — defined generally as a criminal offense motivated by bias against race, religion, gender or other characteristics. He said the perpetrators are more often young black men who don’t feel good about themselves and who prey on the vulnerable for economic reasons…

Those who have been attacked say the abuse is often accompanied by comments such as “go back to your own country,” or “you don’t belong here.”…

Members of that community say they often do not call police because they either fear retaliation from the accused, they don’t think police will be effective at solving the problem, or they are simply more inclined just accept the abuse… Read more here

Posted in crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, police, Rochester, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees abused at Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 15, 2014


A gentleman who contacted us back in April (history is here and here) about conditions for refugees resettled via Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville contacted us again recently to give an update and more information.

He said there have been at least five injuries of refugees at the factories where they were placed by the temporary employment agencies that Bridge uses to get refugees employed.

One refugee reportedly injured his shoulder at work and Bridge would not do anything to help. An Ethiopian refugee broke his hand at Quality Bakery Products. African refugees were also injured at Ifco Systems pallets division in Knoxville. Again, the agency would not help. Another refugee injured his lungs, inhaling a chemical at a Cooper Standard factory (production of plastic automobile bumper parts). Yet another refugee passed out at that factory, also due to the chemicals. He now coughs a lot and has respiratory problems. A third refugee who worked at the factory developed a rash on his body, which may have been due to the chemicals used there. Yet another refugee, an older Iraqi gentleman, severely injured his shoulder pushing a heavy cart at the Goodwill warehouse on Middlebrook Pike. The cart came back at him and he put his arms out to stop it. He needed surgery to repair the shoulder and was off work for months. He said Goodwill treated him well so he decided not to sue. At Custom Food Inc. exposure to spices caused sinus problems for an Ethiopian refugee who has allergies. He requested to switch jobs but Bridge’s employment coordinator refused to help him. Finally, at Propak Logistics’ pallets repair section many Iraqi refugees reported injuries for years to Bridge’s employment coordinator but the coordinator ignored their complaints and sided with the company against the refugees.

Bridge has arranged work via Express Employment (and Adico), for whom the refugees work. Many refugees sign papers not knowing what they are signing; some do not read English. Under this arrangement with Express a factory pays $9 per hour but refugees only get a bit more than $7 per hour. The work is unstable, with refugees working a week and then being off a week.

A former case manager also sent us information about the agency and pointed out that the refugee employment figures are dishonest as most of the refuges have only temporary employment that does not help them to pay rent and be self-sufficient. The nature of the temp jobs also means that the refugees will be unemployed just a short time after the agency reports them employed to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at 90 days and 180 days. (This, however, is a problem throughout the refugee program, and it doesn’t seem that the the ORR has much of an interest in requiring that resettlement agencies report if refugees are working at temporary or non-temporary jobs.)

Many of the interpreters quit in 2012 and 2013 after the agency’s officer manager lowered their pay from $10 per hour to $8, and since that time the agency has picked the refugees up at the airport upon their arrival without interpreters for refugees from Myanmar (Burma) and Africa. The agency then takes the refugees to their apartments and gives flawed home safety orientation involving just pointing to things and turning things on and off in an attempt to show them how things work. It then takes weeks before they find an interpreter. When the case manager voiced his concerns about this to the office manager she responded that it was case managers’ responsibility to bring an interpreter. He asked her how he could use one that is not contracted. She said they would look into but that it was his responsibility to get one and that it was okay to have a volunteer interpreter.

These refugees don’t receive proper attention because nobody can communicate with them. The African refugees compared services the agency was giving them to other refugees and realized they were receiving fewer services and less attention in all areas. As a result, when the African refugees started their own organization to help their own community they refused to work with Bridge.

The case manager points out that the Bridge office in Chattanooga is more organized than the office in Knoxville due to the qualifications, dedication and experience of the office coordinator in Chattanooga. She comes in everyday at 8:30 am and leaves at 4:30 pm unlike the one in Knoxville who comes in at 9am or 10am and sneaks out around 2pm-3pm yet submits weekly time sheets indicating 40 hours of work. The agency lists the working hours on the door as 8:30am to 4:30pm, yet if refugees and others come in at 8:30am the only people they find are the financial manager and the case managers. If the case managers are not there the office stays closed until 9:30am.

The  Knoxville office manager also wastes staff time with pointless staff meetings early on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Friday they have two staff meetings; one for the Executive Director with meeting agendas that contain her personal events such as her son’s birthday and her marriage anniversary, and a second meeting with the office manager. The meetings consume most of the day until 2pm, at which time the Director and the office manager leave the office to go home while the rest of the staff stay to finish their paperwork, as Friday is supposed to be a day for that and not for meetings.

The case manager tried many times to tell the administration that their everyday meetings are just a barrier that prevents them from doing their jobs but the office manager insisted on enforcing these meetings. He said she has no management skills and is only in the office manager position because the Director of Bridge is her close friend. The office manager also told the staff that no one is allowed to communicate with the agency’s board of directors, EMM and CWS (Bridge’s national affiliates), or TOR (Tennessee Office for Refugees); this to prevent any leaks of information to those organizations.  He said anyone who dares to violate that rule knows they may face retaliation and lose their job.

He also reports that Bridge is placing refugees in apartments in a bad downtown neighborhood with a lot buying, selling and use of street drugs. The apartments have carpeting that smells bad, broken plumbing, and heavy insect infestations.

Transportation of refugees was yet another area of violation by the agency. A van donated in 2011 used to transport refugees had mechanical problems in the steering wheel as well as no air-conditioning. The case manager told the managers that the vehicle was not safe to use but it was clear to him that money in the budget for their salaries (the director and the office manager who do not even work the full-time they are supposed to work) was more important than refugee safety issues. The heat inside the vehicle was so unbearable in the summer months that a staff member was overcome by the heat and had to be taken to the ER by ambulance. The agency only stopped using the van and sold it to the junkyard when the major mechanical problem in the steering wheel prevented it from being driven.

He pointed to another serious problem – that the agency did not have a shredder for years until recently in 2013. He used his own shredder that he brought from home. He says that every-time he spoke to the current administrators to give the staff a shredder they ignored him just as the previous executive director did when he told her a case manager who quit in 2010 threw boxes filled with confidential papers in the trash. She wasn’t concerned so he and another staff member dived in the dumpster to recover those boxes. The current administrators also do not care if staff use their own equipment to get the job done, such as their own laptops and other devices needed – a violation of HIPAA policy (privacy law). The agency is also violating the HIPAA policy by having unauthorized people being involved with refugee clients’ personal medical information, e.g. the office manager talks about the clients’ medical issues in front of her husband who often comes to the office.

The agency is run so poorly by the current administration, and with a lack of supervision from the board of directors, that the most highly qualified and decorated case workers have quit the agency since 2010 – in 2010 three case workers quit; in 2011 two quit; and three in 2013. In early 2013 the only two case managers left quit in the same month due to the hopeless situation with the management.

By the way, the most recent State Department monitoring report for this agency seems to have occurred back in 2006 — at least that is the most recent one that the State Department has released to us. The agency had a different director and case managers at that time.

Posted in abuse, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Burma/Myanmar, Burundian, community/cultural orientation, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, employment abuses, employment/jobs for refugees, Ethiopian, home safety orientation, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, Knoxsville, language, language interpretation/translation, lack of, rats and roaches, transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Both City of Springfield, MA and refugee agencies take little responsibility

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 4, 2013


Media articles about the situation with refugees in Springfield, Massachusetts keep revealing more bits of information about the story. It turns out that there have been at least seven condemnations of buildings where refugee families were living while the local resettlement agencies say little other than that they do not place refugees in substandard housing. I have not yet seen evidence that Lutheran Social Services of New England and the Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts placed the refugees in those apartments, but the question still remains as to why the refugees ended up in those places and what, if anything, the resettlement agencies did to assist them to deal with problems. So far the agencies only want to point to a couple of issues that they claim are inaccuracies in coverage of the story, such as refugees receiving only three months of services By the way, resettlement agencies across the country make that exact claim when asked why they did not take care of refugees who needed help. Refugee resettlement agencies (charities) claim that they do not receive enough by way of public funding which mainly only covers the first 30-90 days and are therefore unable to help refugees beyond a limited intial resettlement period (this ignores their responsibility to seek sufficient private funding to complement public funding, as it is claimed that the refugee program is a public/private partnership). Refugees who do not become employed soon after arrival are elligible for Refugee Medicaid and Refugee Cash Assistance during their first eight months, and continuing assistance during their first five years for ongoing employment services, case management, immigration services, etc. (resettlement agencies receive public funding for these services via an ORR grant). Then there is Mayor Sarno who rightly questions what the resettlement agencies have been doing while local refugees have wound up in condemned properties, with no heat in the winter, and not knowing how to get to and from the hospital. He claims he has serious concerns about refugees living in substandard housing, yet blames the refugees for straining the City code enforcement department. Why would refugees be responsible for code enforcement issues? Shouldn’t the Mayor focus on negligent landlords who operate these code-violating properties and who fail to provide required services to tenants? What has the City been doing to address this issue during recent years? An article in The Republican addresses this issue:

Sarno and numerous city officials met for 90 minutes with approximately 30 representatives of agencies and advocacy groups involved in the refugee resettlement program.

During the meeting, and thereafter, Sarno continued to say the influx of refugees in recent years has strained city services, including the schools, police and code enforcement officials. He said he has serious concerns about refugees living in poverty and substandard housing, and not getting enough help and follow-up services from the service agencies…

This is not an attack on refugees,” Sarno said. “It is about accountability of the agencies following through…

Some of the advocates said they will look into the individual issues raised by the mayor, including seven condemnations of buildings where refugee families were living, but urged the mayor to realize those are individual cases, and that there are many refugee success stories here and elsewhere. In addition, they said there has been misinformation spread, including comments made that refugees just receive assistance for three months…

The agencies will research the alleged lack of sufficient follow-up services “to determine to what extent the service agencies can do a better job with the city in meeting the needs of the refugees,” [Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, a spokeswoman for the coalition of refugee service groups] said… Read more here

Posted in capacity, Catholic Charities, dangerous neighborhoods, housing, housing, substandard, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, Lutheran Social Services of New England -- Ascentria Care Alliance, moratorium / restriction / reduction, ORR, public/private partnership, RCA (Refugee Cash Assistance), RMA (Refugee Medical Assistance), Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Rodent infestation so pervasive they were nibbling on a disabled child’s feeding tube

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 21, 2013



The horror stories keep emerging from the Springfield, MA case. The city cited one rental property at 400 Franklin St. occupied by three families of Somali refugees for deplorable, “uninhabitable” living conditions – because mice and rats infested the building so pervasively they were nibbling on a disabled child’s feeding tube. The property was filled with dead mice and rat droppings, and had holes chewed in the walls. The city issues a condemnation order in May for the property at Franklin Street and 72 Carver St. with a torn blue tarp covering the roof. It had a litany of violations including broken locks and windows, a lack of hot water and heat in certain units and a heavy infestation of bed bugs. An article at The Republican takes a deeper look at the situation in Springfield:

SPRINGFIELD — …21-year-old Hiboxasan Iyai found the challenges of her birthright were not yet over.

Among hundreds of Somali Bantu refugees resettled here since 2003, Iyai – a mother of a 3- and 1-year-old, has been struggling to feed and clothe her children since she arrived two months ago…

America good,” she said with a broad smile, standing in the hallway of her apartment at 400 Franklin St, a triple-decker home that houses three families of Somali refugees run by a landlord based out of Meriden, Conn.

The property was one of several cited by the city for deplorable, “uninhabitable” living conditions earlier this year – primarily because mice and rats had infested the building so pervasively they were nibbling on a disabled child’s feeding tube on the third floor, according to city records linked to the house…

David Cotter, director of code enforcement for the city, has said more than a half-dozen complaints have recently come from the refugee rental market, with properties all across the city affected…

The emerging housing problem was among factors that prompted Mayor Domenic J. Sarno to publicly state that the city is “closed for business” for any more refugees…

I know (resettlement agencies) mean well. I do care and do have a heart. I’m a first-generation kid of Italian immigrants … but where’s the follow-up?” Sarno said.

The two primary resettlement agencies for refugees in Western Massachusetts are Jewish Family Service in Springfield and Lutheran Social Services of New England.

Since 2011, U.S. State Department numbers show the agencies have helped resettle nearly 1,500 refugees in Greater Springfield – primarily from African nations and in greatest numbers in Springfield and West Springfield…

Jozefina Lantz, director for services for New Americans for Lutheran Social Services, said…“If the refugee family runs into issues…three years down the road — that is not something we would follow…

Cotter provided documentation for several properties including Franklin Street and 72 Carver St., which still had a torn blue tarp covering the roof when a reporter recently visited the property. A small group of women dressed in traditional African garb were gathered on the front porch, but none spoke English.

A condemnation order was issued by the city in May, attached to a report with a litany of violations including the tarp, broken locks and windows, a lack of hot water and heat in certain units and a heavy infestation of bed bugs…

In the case of 400 Franklin St., Cotter said the property was filled with dead mice and rat droppings, and had holes chewed in the walls. Deeds records show the limited liability corporation purchased the property for $35,000 in 2008.

We have six people in code enforcement and there have been 192 condemnations since the first of January. That’s a ridiculous amount. Now we have to turn those over to our Law Department, which is short-staffed, and what happens when the cold weather comes and they don’t have a winter coat or they can’t communicate with the oil company when that runs out? Where’s the follow-up?” Cotter said…

Iyai…added that she had been resettled by Lutheran Social Services.

Not good,” she said, unable to provide more detail in English… Read more here

A 2003 State Department inspection report shows that ten years ago there were concerns about public safety is the areas that Jewish Family Services was placing Somali Bantu refugees. Female refugees said they did not feel safe walking in the neighborhood. Why wasn’t this issue resolved? (Several years ago I asked Barbara Day of the State Department Refugee Admissions Office why the contract documents that resettlement agencies such as Jewish Family Services sign do not have any penalties, any “teeth.” She said they would have to consider that.  As of 2013 there still are no teeth.) Also, two refugee men reported that Jewish Family Services had charged them for their stove and refrigerator. These items are required via one of the State Department contract documents that resettlement agencies such as Jewish Family Services sign, therefore the agency violated the contract by charging the refugees. 

Posted in bed bugs, children, dangerous neighborhoods, disabled refugees, housing, housing, substandard, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, Lutheran Social Services of New England -- Ascentria Care Alliance, Office of Admissions, rats and roaches, safety, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Refugees in substandard housing in Springfield, MA

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 17, 2013

 8-14-13, rotted roof shingles 2

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:

8-13-13, blurb from Springfied mayor letter to B. Day re substandard housing

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:

8-14-13, rotted roof shingles

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?

Posted in Congolese, crime, dangerous neighborhoods, Eritrean, HIAS, housing, housing, substandard, Iranian, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, Lutheran Social Services of New England -- Ascentria Care Alliance, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Nepali Bhutanese, Office of Admissions, police, rats and roaches, safety, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


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