1:05 a.m. PST January 9, 2016
Fifty refugees from various countries will be coming to Salem between February and September.
Catholic Charities is leading the effort to find housing and services for the refugees.
Jennifer Barischoff has helped resettle hundreds of refugees from around the world and was looking for more feasible ways to help them in Oregon.
Housing in Portland is limited and expensive, she said, so she started exploring Salem.
Salem offers a lot of advantages over other areas of Oregon for refugees, she said.
Salem housing is less expensive, employment at entry-level positions is more available and appealing, and it is a smaller, calmer city, something that can be beneficial to someone who has been through a traumatic situation and for someone who doesn’t have any prior networks, she said.
Catholic Charities has helped resettle four or five families in Salem in the past year.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Refugee Resettlement. Such funding goes toward the Match Grant Program, which has worked with the Catholic Charities program in Salem.
The conference recommended 50 people to go to Salem since it is a new program.
Due to the conflict in Syria, the United States is expected to take in 85,000 refugees this year, up from the average of 70-80,000 a year the country has maintained in recent years, Barischoff said.
She said Catholic Charities, on average, helps to resettle about 350 refugees per fiscal year statewide. This year, they will be helping an additional 100 refugees to resettle in Oregon.
Although several governors asked President Obama last year to reject all refugees from Syria, at least temporarily, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in November the state would accept and “open the doors of opportunity” to refugees.
Catholic Charities staff and volunteers will work to provide the refugees with secure housing and furnishings, food with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and health insurance with the Oregon Health Plan, a Social Security card, a rapid employment program and more.
They will provide English language programs and are partnering with local businesses and organizations to help them find work within four to six months of being in Salem.
The incoming refugees are from multiple countries, Barischoff said, including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, and Syria, though this is an estimate at this time.
Ultimately, Barischoff wishes for one thing for the refugees: a “renewed sense of hope for (their lives) and future(s).”
“It’s hard to emphasize how it feels to go from a place of fear and trauma, one in which your life is in limbo, to a feeling of safety, where you can plan for the future and your life is no longer on hold,” she said.
Pritam Rohila is one of the five dozen volunteers working to help the refugees coming to Salem this year.
Rohila came to the United States in 1967 and said he understands what it feels like to be in an unfamiliar place and have a deep desire to connect with what you know and love.
“I came voluntarily,” Rohila said. “They did not. They came under threatening conditions. They are coming under duress.
“Producing a sense of home for them is much more important.”