Residents of the Boynton Terrace public housing site in Chattanooga report ongoing problems that refugees are having adapting to life in their new country. This is the same site where a woman from Burundi was raped by a neighbor in 2009 and it took five days to arrest the suspect because no translator was available to ask the victim what happened. Bridge Refugee Services helped resettle 80 of the Burundian refugees to Chattanooga in 2008. Residents now are pointing to the problem of refugee residents who have not been able to learn English since they resettled, and have been unable to adequately adapt to the new culture and community. An article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press explains the situation.
Evariste Simbananiye lives in a fully furnished apartment in Boynton Terrace but prefers squatting, as he did in his native Burundi, to sitting in a chair.
Simbananiye, 64, is among a handful of refugees from at least three countries who live in or near the public housing facility. They’ve been there since 2007, but Boynton residents say some refugees still don’t have the support they need to adjust to a new culture and language.
Another Burundi refugee has had so many apartment fires that some residents say he shouldn’t use the stove. Instead of using a pot or pan to hold his cooking food, he holds it directly over the electric burner, much as he would have done with a fire in his homeland.
Before coming to the United States under a federal resettlement program, these refugees may only have known life in a refugee camp. Once here, they often cling to their old way of life because they can’t communicate well enough to understand and adapt to cultural differences.
“They were brought here and just dumped off,” said Bennie Haynes, president of the Boynton Terrace Resident Council.
The result can be friction with neighbors, and even public safety or health problems.
One of the things Boynton Terrace residents say needs to be communicated is not to use the bathroom in public places like the elevator.
And they’re asking the Chattanooga Housing Authority or some other agency to supply a full-time language interpreter on site to help.
CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright said she wasn’t aware of the request…
…The need for better access to an interpreter isn’t new. In 2009 a woman from Burundi was raped by a neighbor. It took five days to arrest the suspect because no translator was available to ask the victim what happened, according to news reports…
…Between 2005 and 2008, Bridge brought about 80 of the Burundian refugees to Chattanooga.
Most have since relocated to other areas…Read more here
That fact, that most have moved away (know as “”secondary migration”), should not be ignored. It may mean that the refugees were not happy with this area as a resettlement site, for any number of reasons. Maybe they could not become economically self-sufficient here, felt neglected by the agency, or some other reason. We need to ask the State Department why they continue to resettle refugees to this site if there is this apparently heavy out-migration figure.