September 10, 2021

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Refugee Resettlement Program is a blessing to newcomers

David Bethuram

Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program has a rich history of serving primary refugees in our community since 1975. The Refugee Resettlement Program meets the regional needs of the refugees designated to resettle here, either through family reunification or as “free cases” assigned to our local community.

New refugees are at their most vulnerable as they enter the United States. Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program seeks to address the most fundamental needs of all new refugees such as access to housing, food, clothing, income, medical care, education and employment.

The U.S. has one of the safest refugee programs in the world, as each refugee is required to go through an extensive, multifaceted, vetting process, including a series of very rigorous interviews by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, the State Department and the National Counterterrorism Center. In addition, they go through a health check. All of this will occur before a refugee is ever finally selected to be admitted to the U.S.

Operating under the umbrella of the U.S. of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS) in collaboration with Department of State/Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (DOS/PRM), our program carries out refugee services to address needs by providing direct case management and networking with the intention of building financial independence.

Financial self-sufficiency is achieved through acquiring safe and stable housing, asset building, financial literacy training, and basic employment soft skills training which assists refugees in gaining the ability to secure employment, a more sustainable and significant source of financial independence. We also provide English classes as well as cultural, transportation, shopping and budgeting orientations.

As a program, our greatest strength is our intensive client-centered case management. Goals established for refugees are intended to: address immediate social/educational needs, attain a stable environment, develop skills for employment, understand basic financial principles and promote seamless integration.

The process we utilize entails an intake and assessment, goal development, intervention, referrals, monitoring and reassessing throughout the service period and transitioning services seamlessly to other service providers at the end of a 90-day resettlement period. More than 90% of the refugees who we have resettled through Catholic Charities Indianapolis are self-sufficient within six months of arrival. That means they are working, paying their own bills and not receiving government cash assistance. This rapid success can be partially attributed to the committed efforts of Catholic Charities’ volunteers working with refugees.

The Munsifs are such a family from Afghanistan who arrived in Indianapolis in September of 2020. Before their arrival, Catholic Charities’ staff were excited to prepare a furnished apartment for these parents and their three children and took extra measures to add everything this family would need during their two-week quarantine. We ensured they had plenty of culturally appropriate food, cleaning supplies and masks. Once they arrived, we were able to assist them remotely in applying for SNAP benefits and Medicaid, as well as their Social Security card.

After the quarantine, we ensured that each family member completed an initial health screening and was linked with a primary care provider for immediate and ongoing health needs. The children were so excited when we brought them uniforms and schools supplies, enrolled them in school, and showed them how to get to school each day—while modeling social distancing! The parents were excited when we were able to set up the Internet and give them a Chromebook to use for cultural orientation classes, English classes and engaging with friends and family.

Mr. Munsif used this Chromebook to enroll in truck driving school. He has now completed the program and is a full-time truck driver. His wife has completed an intensive cultural orientation class and is doing a great job taking care of the family as they adjust to life in the United States.

The Munsifs are amazed and thankful for these employment and educational opportunities, especially as they just arrived in a new country in the midst of a pandemic. This is a testament not only to the resilience of this family, but also to the strength of our Catholic community that welcomed them.
 

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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