Detroit Refugee Network launched to help Afghan and Ukrainian migrants
Detroit — Samaritas, a Detroit-based social service organization that runs one of the state’s largest refugee resettlement programs, said Wednesday the agency and its community partners are launching the Detroit Refugee Network to help incoming migrants .
A coalition of business, civic and community leaders will provide support services through the network to refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine and other countries as they resettle in Detroit.
Network executives Samaritas Chief Advancement Officer Kelli Dobner, Detroit First Lady Dr. Sonia Hassand and Laura Grannemann, Vice President of the Rocket Community Fund, made the announcement in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the west side of town where refugees are being resettled.
The network will serve clients of three resettlement agencies, including Samaritas, the American Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Southeast Michigan Catholic Charities and Samaritas.
Network executives Samaritas Chief Advancement Officer Kelli Dobner, Detroit First Lady Dr. Sonia Hassand and Laura Grennemann, Vice President of the Rocket Community Fund, made the announcement in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the west side of town where refugees are being resettled.
“It’s really hard to leave your hometown and even harder to leave your family behind,” said Hamaed Ahmadzai, a 22-year-old Afghan refugee who emigrated on September 5. On August 15, when it fell to the Taliban, I knew I had to go, even on my own.”
Ahmadzai said he still speaks with his siblings and parents who constantly change locations in Afghanistan after abandoning their hometown of Balkh.
Through the three agencies, more than 650 Afghan refugees have resettled in southeast Michigan since last year, and more than 250 plan to settle in Detroit. So far, 210 refugees have moved into Detroit homes but need additional support, especially in the first year of resettlement, officials said.
The network is seeking $1.13 million to provide Detroit refugees with services including housing, education, transportation, legal services support, ESL classes, utility assistance and l ‘job. Donations can be made at www.samaritas.org/Detroit-Refugee-Network.
The majority of Afghan refugees have limited “humanitarian parole” status and there is not yet a large community of Afghans in the Detroit metro area.
“Through the City of Detroit’s partnership and vision, we will be able to help more refugees from Afghanistan and beyond become more acclimated Detroiters, faster, so they can thrive in their new community. “, said Dobner, co-president of the Detroit Refugee Network.
Earlier this year, as hundreds of Afghan refugees resettled in Michigan, most lived in hotels as finding affordable housing and other supports became a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michigan is expected to help 1,603 Afghan refugees, most of whom arrived in mid-February. Refugees will be assigned to nonprofit resettlement agencies — 36% in Southeast Michigan, 21% in Grand Rapids, 18% in Ann Arbor, 16% in Lansing and 9% in Kalamazoo.
The network has already received nearly $50,000 in donations from its partner, CARE USA, which has joined the effort to provide cash payments of up to $1,000 to refugee families who have resettled in Detroit.
As the daughter of Egyptian immigrants, Hassan said she witnessed how her parents’ drive, passion and determination led to the American dream after starting from scratch. She also presented Detroit as a welcoming and safe city for migrants fleeing danger.
“The Detroit Refugee Network helps families start a new life in the city of Detroit. I am deeply committed and honored to be part of this cause,” said Hassan, who is also Co-Chair of the Network.
The network intends to keep families in Detroit by providing immediate placement in permanent affordable housing with a pathway to home ownership, basic needs, safety and legal services, access to care health, employment programs, transport, cultural and social education, school integration and their connection. with faith-based community partners.
Dobner said more than 75% of refugees are self-sufficient within 180 days.
“We desperately need housing. Single-family homes, duplexes, whatever,” she says. “We need places next to schools to accommodate our families who have arrived with children. The better our inventory, the sooner we can ensure sustainability.”
The network is supported by workforce opportunities through the Rocket Community Fund, which has seven employees embedded at Samaritas. The company estimates this to be an in-kind donation of $750,000. The team will help identify and execute housing opportunities, manage landlord relationships, monitor inventory needs, coordinate moves, and assist with placement once refugees are settled into housing.
“We are committed to providing sustainable, sustainable housing for Detroit residents, including the vulnerable populations who now call our city home,” said Rocket Vice President Grannemann. “The Detroit Refugee Network is an essential initiative that provides support to those who need it most, and we are proud to provide Samaritas and its partners with the support they need to fulfill this urgent mission.
Said Urahman, 31, arrived from Afghanistan in November. He fled Afghanistan with his two young children, aged 6 and 3, and his wife who was then pregnant with their third child. Their son was born in Detroit a few weeks ago.
He spent months on a military base before moving to temporary accommodation in a hotel for three months. He would not comment on the environment abroad but said it was difficult to leave in the midst of a pandemic and during the winter.
“It was very complicated at first. We had no one, no friends, no one,” he said. “As the process unfolded, I had people contact me to offer help. Many refugees are still in the same process. People need legal services, employment and transportation Still, it’s exciting to be here because we see other immigrants in Detroit doing very well.”