Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Congolese refugee family facing eviction in San Antonio

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 15, 2012

***UPDATE*** — July 21, 2012 — San Antonio Express News readers take in refugee family

A Congolese refugee woman and her seven kids have found themselves on the precipice of eviction ten months after resettlement in San Antonio. She claims assistance from Catholic Charities, Archdioceses of San Antonio Inc. was spotty at best and didn’t address the special hurdles she faces. In the past ten months a caseworker from the agency met with her only once in person to discuss job prospects, and took her to apply for one cleaning job. Yet, recently she got a hotel housekeeping job — through a refugee friend. An article at the San Antonio Express-News has more:

[Leonia Espe] and her seven surviving children escaped [her village in east Congo]…

…Four years later, they were resettled to the United States, landing last September in a shabby, three-bedroom flat on the city’s North Side under the auspices of Catholic Charities, Archdioceses of San Antonio Inc.

As is policy, Espe received pocket cash and rental assistance for up to six months. The agency gives $1,125 per family member; smaller families get less.

She was able to pay her rent through April and is now two months in arrears. A judge decided on Thursday that the apartment can evict her and her children, in five days.

Espe, whose youngest child is 4, suffers from peptic ulcers and a heart condition and speaks little English.

She wasn’t able to find a job during the six months an agency caseworker was assigned to work one on one with her, assistance that was spotty at best and didn’t address the special hurdles she faces, she claims…

Pamela Raines, director of development for Catholic Charities, said the record shows Espe attended five weeks of job-training classes, something the client denies. (The refugee staff was at a conference and couldn’t be contacted, said Raines.)

Espe said she did take some of the agency’s English classes but had to miss often because of sickness, her own or one of her children’s.

Raines said the agency had “consistent contact” with Espe during the six months of direct help and that she didn’t show up for several employment-related appointments, something Espe also denies.

According to Raines’ record and Espe’s memory, a caseworker met with her only once in person to discuss job prospects in late spring or early summer. Faida, 17, the eldest daughter, said the same caseworker took her to a local office building to apply for a cleaning job.

But that was two months ago and no one has called,” she said. “It feels scary. I don’t have any hope.”

Akhahenda said he and Espe paid a visit to her case manager in early June, after she had received her second notice of past-due rent from the apartment.

He said to me, ‘Don’t worry, we won’t let her be evicted,’” Akhahenda recalled. “He said they would find her alternative housing.”

Then he didn’t hear anything more, he said…


Recently Espe got a job through a refugee friend…A hotel housekeeping job… Read more here

3 Responses to “Congolese refugee family facing eviction in San Antonio”

  1. derrick333 said

    As a volunteer helping refugees it seems to me that if a refugee keeps missing appointments then a case worker could either go to see the refugee for the an appointment, or at least find out why the person keeps missing appointments. But to just let a refugee fall into an eviction scenerio is not responsible.

  2. Jean said

    Thanks for this information, may the San Antonio readers can knows more about the problem for Refugees and help thm in needs. I think that some staff in Catholic Charities don’t know they duties, if yes,they must how to resolve many problems

  3. Mike Williams said

    Has been a beacon of help over the past decades for people needing food, undocumented people, people unable to pay rent and/or utilities, just being there to listen, working with homeless, and helping people in depth with such groups as the Catholic Worker Movement. They have also had quality people who worked with the community and simply stated – were smart, caring people like Steve Saldana. But the handling of the refugees in San Antonio seems to have been poorly organized. They seem to have been brought over, given an apartment,, a bit of guidance and told “Good Luck”. T hen where did Catholic Charities go. If they are not going to give the strangers guidance, more money, and stay in their lives longer then they do neither the refugees nor the hosting community any favors when they bring them over and abandon them. I know the Lord provides, but the Lord does give us the brains to plan things out before we start them.

    Bringing dependent people over, making promises, settling them in then walking away is no better than parential abandonment. Get your act together before you bring more people over, plus why keep settling people in the same area, trying to create a ghetto? New Braunfels, Castroville, the South side all have strong Catholic populations and could be asked to host some people.

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