hawkins@growyourgiving.org Individual & Family Giving

Three Ways to Support Refugee Resettlement In Your Community

More than 90,000 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the United States within the next 12 months. Resettlement agencies across the country are expected to be ready to welcome hundreds to thousands of refugees to various cities with very little notice. Nonprofit organizations serving refugees face many challenges as resources from the federal government ebb and flow with each presidential administration. Here are three ways philanthropists can fill the gap and help meet the needs of our newest neighbors:

  1. Expand Agency Capacity: With federal and state funding constantly in flux, many nonprofit organizations are sometimes finding their budgets in jeopardy. Investing in the sustainability of resettlement agencies and providing long-term, unrestricted funding allows agencies to retain and grow staff so they can provide critical services to refugees and better serve the community.
  2. Provide Additional Funding: Resettlement agencies are allotted just over $1,000 per individual and must provide housing, medical care and other basic needs in only three short months. When that federal funding is expended, nonprofits turn to funding from philanthropists to help refugees meet their needs until they are self-sufficient.
  3. Volunteer Time and Talent: Many refugees arrive to the United States with few or no material possessions. Donating or volunteering to procure household items such as furniture, appliances and other necessities for families to start a home are meaningful ways to become involved in the work of your local resettlement agencies.

If you’re interested in using your charitable investment account to support refugee resettlement in your community, our team at Greater Horizons is available to answer any questions.

Authored by: Ashley Hawkins, Content Specialist


Learn More on the Grow Your Giving Podcast

Interested in digging into the topic of refugee resettlement even further? Philanthropic Advisor Kelli Doyle recently hosted a two-part series on the Grow Your Giving podcast featuring leaders from two resettlement agencies in the Kansas City metro.

A transcription of each episode can be found below. All episodes of the Grow Your Giving podcast can be found on major streaming platforms like Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and online at greaterhorizons.org/podcast.

Listen to part one:

Listen to part two:

Part One Transcription

Introduction:
Welcome to the Grow Your Giving podcast, powered by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and our national entity, Greater Horizons. We aim to make giving convenient and efficient for our donors through donor-advised funds and other charitable giving tools. The Grow Your Giving podcast discusses philanthropic topics to help you enjoy giving more. Find us online at greaterhorizons.org.

Kelli Doyle:
Hi, I’m Kelli Doyle, a philanthropic advisor with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Greater Horizons. Today, I’m excited for you to hear part of a conversation with Hilary Cohen Singer from Jewish Vocational Services and Ryan Hudnall from Della Lamb Community Services. We talk about the current challenges and opportunities that refugee resettlement agencies are facing today, and what it looks like for our community in Kansas City. Hilary and Ryan, thank you so much for joining us. I’d like to start with you, Hilary. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came to the work at Jewish Vocational Services?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Yeah. So I grew up in Kansas City, and I moved away, and I lived in New York for 15 years, and I came back to Kansas City, and I was looking for opportunities in the nonprofit sector, and got introduced to JVS, and really just fell in love, because it combines for me a number of things that are really important to me personally, as somebody who’s part of the Jewish community, I am really struck by the compliment of our founding. We were founded in 1949 to provide support to the Holocaust survivors, and other displaced people who were coming into Kansas City, and so we have that rooting in Jewish history and in Jewish values in terms of welcoming the stranger.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
And so I like that rootedness, but also the orientation is towards the community at large, and providing that service to anybody who wants to take advantage of it. So the mission really resonated for me. And so when I came to Kansas City, I got hooked on JVS, and I started as a consultant, and then as our associate director, and now as executive director, and so I’ve been engaged with the agency for 10 years now.

Kelli Doyle:
Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. Ryan, I’d love to hear your background, and how you came to your role at Della Lamb.

Ryan Hudnall:
Yeah. So raised on the prairie in southwest Kansas, moved to Kansas City in ’99, and so this place is deeply home. I want to love my city well. If I think about the end of my life, when people say, “Who was Ryan?” I just want to love my city well. After graduating from Truman State, I joined the accounting firm, KPMG, and spent seven years there, was a CPA and a corporate auditor, auditing side. And people were like, wait a minute, auditing. And it was just an amazing way to, to introduce me to so many of our city’s institutional businesses, and really understand processes and flows. And just think about who we are as a city. While I was at KPMG, they gave me this just remarkable freedom to take a sabbatical each year that I upped the ante my fifth year at the firm and spent six months in Haiti.

Ryan Hudnall:
And it was just a time of deep listening, exploring, exploring areas of economic developments, faith-based entity engagement and orphan care and orphan prevention. And so after that time, my heart was deeply attached to the Haitian community and other international communities and joined another nonprofit here in Kansas City called the Global Orphan Project. While I was there, had the opportunity to explore and understand different crises and triggers of displacement and orphan care. And then think about how do you, how do you respond well to that? How do you provide, how do you come alongside families and developing nations? Through that time and got to travel and meet so many people across the globe. So many internationals who were actively working for the welfare of their cities in Haiti, India, Lebanon, and the Dominican Republic. And they just inspired me in such a way that I couldn’t even articulate that they were pursuing the welfare of those in their city.

Ryan Hudnall:
And so as they were just inspiring me and I was reflecting upon Kansas City, the executive director at Della lamb was retiring and through some contacts, I just started falling in love with Della Lamb, with all the initiatives. My mother was a first grade teacher. And so issues of early education have been so, have just been beaten into me since birth and the importance of literacy and my passion for the international community, just because they’re my friends and they’ve stayed in my home. It really resonated with me. And so Della Lamb really captured my heart. And I joined in August of 2019 as the executive director.

Kelli Doyle:
I’d like to just dive into this topic, Hilary, we’re going to start with you. Would you tell us a little bit about the typical refugee resettlement process and why someone, an individual or a family, might find themselves in a situation where they would need to be resettled?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Sure. So a refugee is an individual that has faced persecution because of their race, their religion, their ethnicity, their membership in a particular social group, and they’ve been forced to flee their country for fear of their lives. And generally, when this happens, individuals present themselves to the United Nations high commission on refugees, and they seek protection there. The average length of time that people take advantage of this protection, whether it’s in a refugee camp or in a city somewhere is 17 years. So it’s a really long process to move from that refugee camp into another location. The solutions for refugees are to either go back to their home country in safety. And I think we can all imagine that that hardly ever happens. Conflicts are really prolonged. And so it’s rarely safe for people to go back home. They can adjust their status in the country that they’re in, and that does not happen a huge amount, or they can resettle in a third country like the United States.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
And that really only happens for less than 1% of the world’s refugees. So I think at last count there were somewhere around 26 million refugees worldwide, and it is a tiny, tiny percentage, less than 120,000 that have the opportunity to resettle anywhere else and build their lives. And so that small percentage, which represents the most vulnerable refugees, have the opportunity to come to a place like the United States and live in safety and freedom. And so they do that in coordination with the United Nations and with our federal government. And once they gain entry, then resettlement agencies like JVS and Della lamb have the privilege of helping to welcome them and make their home here.

Kelli Doyle:
Thank you. Thank you for that background and a great segue into my next question. Ryan, I’ll kind of punt this one to you to start with. Can you talk a little bit about once someone’s being resettled and comes into our community, what that process looks like in your organization day to day, and really, can you give us a sense, kind of a two-part question here? Can you give us a sense of what success looks like in the resettlement process and what you’re trying to achieve?

Ryan Hudnall:
The resettlement process from the Della Lamb’s end, it’s so contextualized based upon the family that it’s difficult because of all the regulatory requirements associated with welcoming someone and helping them on their pathway to community integration while also being client-centric. So there are the federal and state programs that we engage in, and the regulatory requirements that we must meet as part of the welcoming process and the longer road to community integration. So the first is called reception and placement, it’s a federal program overseen by the state department through another agency called PRM. That is a very, very short timeframe and it’s that initial welcoming process. It can last 30 days, but it’s generally extended up to 90 days. And that is the time that we make sure health screenings are performed. We set up homes and work with community partners to identify home furnishings, to place in homes.

Ryan Hudnall:
And really just it’s the very initial welcoming. School enrollment is also part of that. After that, we work with our clients to determine what is the best next step. Sometimes it’s an appointment-related program such as match grant, which allows us to tap into incremental federal resources, to provide to families that can continue with the transition. Other times it might be more case intensive programs, where we’re really working with families to identify barriers towards that journey of community integration and overcoming those. And then there will be state programs that we participate with the Missouri office of refugee administration to really just continue that long-term case management and that can extend for up to five years. So this is really your compliance side, right, where we’re meeting the regulatory requirements for the federal and state programs. But as we think about what is excellence look like? What does success look like?

Ryan Hudnall:
It’s so hard because the refugee resettlement system is structured around financial self-sufficiency. So in one component, we want to get our clients, those that we welcome to a place where they are off public dependence and are beginning the natural integration here. And so identifying employment, securing safe and comfortable housing, identifying a community of wraparound support that is going to welcome and help those understand all the incredible differences from where they’ve come from, to life here in the United States. And so that journey of community integration, it doesn’t take months. It takes years. It takes a long period of time. And so you remembered that those who are coming come often with nothing. And so they’re building their lives here.

Ryan Hudnall:
And so finding those natural communities of support, working with employers, the resettlement agencies, and other nonprofits who have emerged in response to other needs of refugees can help accelerate that. But the complete change in dynamics from where one’s been to where one is, it’s a decade of a journey. And then you’re continuing on and the ripples of the resettlement will continue on and reshape a city even, over the course of decades.

Kelli Doyle:
Absolutely. Hilary, is there anything that you would like to add to what Ryan said, or any differences that you guys experienced in your organization from the day-to-day side?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Yeah, I think a lot of it is similar in terms of providing really intensive services for those first 90 days. And then walking along with people, accompanying them on their journeys with whatever it is that they need. Our services are divided into sort of three categories. So we do that initial work in our community integration. We have a workforce development department that focuses on employment. And then we have a health and wellness department where we have case managers and therapists that specifically focus on physical and mental health as the sort of, one of the foundational building blocks of successes to be able to have your health and individuals who are coming from other places may not have had the same access to physical health resources. And so we help them navigate those. And we know that individuals who have had to flee persecution have experienced tremendous loss and trauma.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
And so we focus on helping them with the mental health portion of the work that they need to do to accomplish what they want to accomplish in their lives. I think one of the… I agree with Ryan that this is a decades-long journey to integration, but I do think that you can see really tremendous results, even in a short period of time, in terms of the change in somebody’s circumstance. I’m thinking of a young man who was resettled by JVS when he was about 14 or 15, and he didn’t speak any English at the time. He got connected to Kansas City public schools and learned English and managed to graduate from high school by the time he was 19 or 20, right? Because he had such a gap in his educational journey. Took him a little bit past the traditional time to gain his high school diploma.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
But he went on from there to university where he ended up serving his senior year as president of the student body. And he came back to Kansas City, one, to be with his family because those family relationships are super important. So, his dream is to work for the United Nations, but he didn’t go off to DC right away. He came back to Kansas City. He lives with his family. He works in the Kansas City public schools to provide the same kind of support that he received to other refugees and immigrants who are coming along after him. And he has plans for law school. And I see tremendous things for him and his future and his family that he would not have had the opportunity to do, had he not been able to come and make a new home for himself in Kansas City.

Ryan Hudnall:
I marvel at the resilience of those families we receive. They’re highly entrepreneurial in nature. They’re incredibly resilient, wonderfully hospitable, and make really good friends. They can be very gracious, and so they’ve enriched, not just Della Lamb but my life personally. Over the past few years through some of our employment programs and as JVS has workforce development programs, employment is incredibly critical to every refugee resettlement agency. And so we cultivate partners and our rates for job placement are so high. So Kansas City is an incredibly right environment. And these particular days with what’s happening with Afghanistan and the need, that so many employers have identified to find people, we’ve had a number of employers reach out directly and say, Hey, I am totally open to the opportunity to employ refugees and would love to understand what it would take to do that.

Ryan Hudnall:
And so what we’re seeing here now is an immense opportunity to address current needs that the city has. And so that is one of the amazing aspects of what’s happening is that those who come, we want to listen and respond to their needs. Certainly, they’ve endured great trauma as part of this whole transition from the downfall of Afghanistan and all the steps that have been taken to reach Kansas City. But there is a mince opportunity to address a critical need Kansas City has right now. And so they can step into jobs that employers are having incredible difficulty finding new staff and provide immediate benefit to our local employers, our city, and start contributing. So, so much here about how refugees contribute to our city, much beyond simply receiving some initial benefits our federal or state government or some assistance from donations.

Kelli Doyle:
Thank you both so much for sharing those stories with us. From the day-to-day side, it sounds like you both have very skilled and flexible staff to be able to respond. And we’ll get into some community partner discussion them a little bit, but Ryan, I kind of wanted to pick up from where you just left talking about specifically the situation in Afghanistan and the rapid fall of the Afghan government and how it’s really impacted both the scope and execution of refugee resettlement, Afghan refugee resettlement specifically. Can you talk a little bit about how Afghan resettlement is a little bit different? Hilary set us up with a nice picture of what the typical resettlement process is, but how is it different today for these Afghan refugees?

Ryan Hudnall:
Yeah, so the primary divergence from our typical process is the notification period that we’re going to receive to welcome someone. And so all of those that we receive have gone through incredible trauma through the displacement triggers that result of them leaving their country of origin. Those evacuated from Afghanistan are a bit different because it’s coming from the country of origin, which resulted in some complexities related to the legal status, which we’re starting to get some resolution on, but it was one of those lingering questions that added a bit of complexity to the process. However, in our typical resettlement process, we’ll get notification anywhere from two to four weeks that will allow us to identify housing, to begin furnishing the housing. In this instance, we’re going to get notification, they’re saying typically will be 48 to 96 hours. And so imagine receiving notification, and then not only is it identifying affordable housing, which is already a challenge that faces our city, but then we have to rally community of support to identify all the home furnishings that will go into a home, work with them to furnish the home, work with property managers.

Ryan Hudnall:
And so the complexity around housing has really put a lot of pressure on the resettlement agencies across the country, in response to this. Other things though, as we receive them, as we welcome them, because of that uniqueness with the short-term notification period, it will put pressure on our financial resources because we’ll have to pursue short term housing options with hotels being the most likely option. Airbnb has raised their hand and is providing some support. But generally speaking, hotels will be our primary option. Finding those partners who will provide subsidized rates for us to have a short term assistance there before we can identify the permanent housing.

Ryan Hudnall:
So there’s a ripple effect because that short-term notification not only is housing an issue, that puts more pressure on our financial resources. The other critical aspect of this is the volume that we’re expected to receive. And so, with so many coming at once, it’s already a challenge identifying housing, preparing your employer partners, finding linguistic competencies either through volunteers or through contracted interpreters. It’s already a challenge with one family. Now we’re going to see an influx. And so how do we prepare ourselves to respond to that? So not only is it, are there nuances in our typical process, but there’s also an influx of arrivals, which is complicating matters a bit more.

Kelli Doyle:
Thank you, Ryan. Hilary, anything to add to what Ryan said about kind of the differences in the process. And then also I’d like to invite you to sprinkle in maybe some data for our listeners to really understand Ryan had touched upon the scope, but can you give us a sense of how many refugees will be coming into the Kansas City community and the timeline, some specifics around that?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Sure. So both JVS and Della Lamb are preparing to welcome pretty large numbers of Afghan refugees over the next couple of months. I think JVS’s number is 300 and Della lamb is at 250. So that’s 550 folks coming into Kansas City in the next few months. And we are being asked by our national partners to work as quickly and as large a volume as we can because this situation now that’s different from the typical refugee experience is that typically refugees are living overseas. They’ve lived there for a really long time. And so there isn’t the same sense of urgency in terms of having them move quickly. What’s happening now is there are folks on military bases and there’s a pressure to get people off of those military bases and into some kind of a permanent situation as quickly as possible, right?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Living on a military base is not the ideal that anybody wants. And so we are being asked at JVS to welcome a minimum of five and as many as 11 families per week to help absorb folks that are coming in off of those bases. They did a survey of national resettlement agencies and asked everybody what their capacity was. And the national capacity came back at 37,000, which is a lot of people. But there are upwards of 50,000 people that need a place to go. So I think the quicker and that we can respond to this, the easier it will be so that people get to a place where they have some stability and consistency. And I think that’s one of the other things that differentiates a little bit, this situation from the typical refugee experience. I don’t mean to glamorize in any way, what it must be like to live on a refugee camp, but there is some degree of stability and predictability and folks have been making their lives there sometimes for decades, they have friends and family that are nearby.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
And so there’s a little bit more… There is a little bit more stability to that environment and the folks that we’re talking about from Afghanistan, six weeks ago, they probably had no conception that they would have their lives uprooted, that they would find themselves on a military base in Wisconsin or Dallas or somewhere like that, thinking about building a new life for themselves in a city that they’ve never heard of before. And so the immediacy of that change and that trauma, I think, is something different that our agencies will need to take into account as we help people adapt to life here in Kansas City.

Kelli Doyle:
And you mentioned earlier about 1% is typically the number of folks that are actually brought through the resettlement process. And you mentioned that they are the most vulnerable. How is vulnerability calculated or how is it determined that a family is vulnerable or an individual is vulnerable?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Yeah, so the United Nations has technical definitions for vulnerable. And so it’s single women and children, people with complex medical issues who are not able to obtain treatment there, people who would have difficulty integrating into the mainstream society there. And so that often means members of the LGBTQ+ community. So things like that.

Ryan Hudnall:
You think about vulnerability and you think about susceptibility to external circumstances as well. And so how will changes in a medical diagnosis right, and this is beyond refugee resettlement, but how would changes to income infect housing? So for our homeless population. So you think about how impacted someone is to those external circumstances and how it completely can change their lives. And so for refugees specifically, outside of the agency support and also community support that can wrap around families, there’s no financial safety net. You have to work through issues related to healthcare and been separated from those rich relationships that you’ve formed. Maybe in the refugee camp, but certainly from what you were at home. And so without that community of support, right, you think about our own lives. Without that natural community of encouragement, of your mentors, those who are investing in you, without that, you can be very lonely and isolated.

Ryan Hudnall:
And so that’s why, as we think about, and you ask about was what is success for the refugee? Certainly, there’s those measures that we have to think about and are important as you think about how do you address basic needs, like Maslow’s hierarchy. You have to identify issues of safety and security housing, but beyond that, what does it look like to have friends? What does it look like to have the loneliness overcome and feel part of something and to start reaching those higher pillars of self-awareness and self-esteem. And so that’s why it’s a journey. And we want to walk with our clients through that, but particularly in the initial arrival, the vulnerability aspects is if you’re not literate in English, how do you understand the laws? So specific incidents that our team has identified, it relates to the tax code.

Ryan Hudnall:
Now ask anyone, right? It’s like, Hey, could you explain the tax code to me? It’s like, excuse me? What? So you’re having those tax providers who will come and try and attract those who don’t speak English and don’t understand the tax code and say, I can assist you, but there’s a certain vulnerability, right? Because there’s no clarity as to what the law actually is and no access to it. And so circumstances like that provide a bit of color regarding what does vulnerability look like when you lack the language and lack the relationships that help you navigate those questions.

Kelli Doyle:
Ryan, thank you so much for sharing those examples. Well, I think this is a good place for us to take a pause here. We’ve laid the groundwork to have a solid understanding of what the typical refugee resettlement process looks like and how that is different for the influx of Afghan refugees that are being welcomed by agencies like Della Lamb and JVS. Come back for part two of our conversation where Hilary and Ryan will share how philanthropy can play a role in the refugee resettlement process and how gifts beyond monetary contributions can make a difference for our newest neighbors and the agencies serving them.

Conclusion:
To hear more from the Grow Your Giving podcast, visit us online at greaterhorizons.org/podcast. Thank you for listening.

 

Part Two Transcription

Introduction:
Welcome to the Grow Your Giving podcast powered by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and our national entity, Greater Horizons. We aim to make giving convenient and efficient for our donors through donor-advised funds and other charitable giving tools. The Grow Your Giving podcast discusses philanthropic topics to help you enjoy giving more. Find us online at greaterhorizons.org.

Kelli Doyle:
Welcome back to the Grow Your Giving podcast. I’m Kelli Doyle. And this is part two of a conversation with Hilary Cohen Singer, from Jewish Vocational Services, and Ryan Hudnall, from Della Lamb Community Services. These two agencies have a long history of working in the Kansas City community to serve refugees and have been working tirelessly over the last few months, especially as they prepare to welcome hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan. Hilary and Ryan, welcome back. Let’s jump right in.

Kelli Doyle:
I’d love to hear from you and from Hillary, what challenges you guys are seeing within our community that are essentially barriers or are roadblocks to really achieving that successful vision for Afghans resettling in Kansas City.

Ryan Hudnall:
So many of the challenges that we face are some of the same challenges that others across the social sectors face in addressing and advocating for their clients. There’s just some nuances here. You don’t have that history of understanding the laws of the United States. The transportation system is completely new. How do you navigate getting on a bus and going to an employer, understanding what different bus routes are. And transportation that transcends so many of the different social sectors. And as we think about access to employment.

Ryan Hudnall:
Affordable housing, particularly with this influx, that is a critical issue that we have to consider. So the refugee resettlement infrastructure, if you were to paint a picture of a time where it’d be exceptionally difficult for your local resettlement agencies to respond, it might be this one. Because of two circumstances. And that’s a bit simplistic, but I might identify two.

Ryan Hudnall:
One, the administrative policies going from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. They’re very different in terms of the resource allocations support, refugee resettlement. And so just to paint a picture, during FY20, I believe the numbers for resettlement overall were about 11,000. And that is well below historical averages that are going to be between 50 to 90,000. Depending upon the administrative policies.

Ryan Hudnall:
Now with president Biden in this upcoming year, he wants to establish what’s called a presidential determination, or the cap for how many were received, at 125,000. So within a couple of years, you’re going from 11,000 to 125,000. There was increases, this past year, to raise the presidential determination to 62,500. But because of the great second circumstance, COVID-19, we’ve still had an incredible depression of the numbers that we’ve received. And the resettlement agencies, in part, are supported by the numbers of the volume that we welcome. And so with that volume, really investing in our agencies, identifying staff members, and interpreters, who really can engage in this process, has been a hard challenge.

Ryan Hudnall:
As you think about all the different challenges we face, we welcome not only those from Afghanistan but from the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Burma, from South Sudan, from across the Middle East, from Somalia. So there’s so many different cultural aspects and languages that we are required to have on staff or to engage with, that the level of resources has made it very difficult.

Ryan Hudnall:
Now we’re coming to a place where all of a sudden we’re going from a very low number, to a historic high number resettled and not just over a calendar year, fiscal year, but in three months. And so this issue of housing is really one that Hilary and I have spent a lot of time reflecting upon. How do we address, how do we welcome people well? How do we identify home furnishings? And we’re working to address that. But that’s the thing that immediately comes to mind. Hilary, your thoughts on other issues that we’re facing?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
I agree with you. I think housing is really the biggest and the earliest barrier. It’s something that needs to be addressed very early on. So we don’t have a lot of lead time to wait to figure things out. People are going to be arriving at the airport and we need to have a place for them to go. So I think that’s a critical one, but I think what’s really interesting to me about the particular circumstances with the situation with Afghanistan is the way that it plays differently in people’s minds. It lives larger for people than conflicts in other parts of the world, because it is so close to home because there are so many people who have friends and family, or they themselves were service members who served in Afghanistan, worked alongside Afghan people, developed those relationships. So for me, I think there are a huge number of challenges, but also this amazing opportunity to connect people to this work.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
We have been overwhelmed with people calling and wanting to find out how they can help, how they can get involved, what can they do to be supportive. And I think that that’s wonderful for easing some of the challenges for this particular set of circumstances, but also I think by becoming aware of agencies like JVS and Della Lamb and the work that we engage in all of the time. Not just for this crisis, but with populations from all over the world, if this is an opportunity to build awareness about that phenomenon and the global connections that are here in our city now, I think that’s a wonderful opportunity to engage and educate people that will yield good things for our organization and really for our whole community for a long time.

Kelli Doyle:
Thank you. I know that you both are not tackling these challenges in a silo on your own. So, Hilary, I’ll start with you. I’d love to hear if you could talk about some of the community partners that you’re working with to help in the resettlement process.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Yeah, this is definitely not work that we do alone. There is a whole community effort that goes alongside supporting people as they’re making their way here. And it really touches all segments of our communities. So we have fantastic partners in schools, in healthcare providers, in employers, in city government, because it really does take that collaboration of people to weave a system of support for people to help them integrate.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
I think the strength of places like JVS and Della Lamb is in our ability to help people navigate. Our ability to be cultural brokers, language brokers, helping people learn and access services. But the ultimate goal is for people to be able to do that themselves in the mainstream setting. And to be able to work with Children’s Mercy and Samuel Rogers Health Center, our school districts, to both help them understand what needs to maybe be taken into account, differently when working with people from, from other cultures to help our clients navigate. It’s really this wonderful collaboration that everybody’s invested in helping people succeed.

Kelli Doyle:
Ryan, anything to add to Hilary’s great response.

Ryan Hudnall:
Yeah. Refugee resettlement is structured around this idea of public-private partnership. Which can be a bit of a euphemism for underfunded, they’ll say underfunded, but it’s designed to reflect the idea that it wants to minimize government dependence. It wants to encourage self-sufficiency, however that’s defined, but most cases in a financial way. It wants to encourage self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. And so getting private enterprise to invest in it, and also working with employers are key aspects of it.

Ryan Hudnall:
All of our service partners, our employers, the faith-based community, the mayor’s office has been incredible advocate here in Kansas City. And so we’ve seen so many from the different sectors emerge in these moments to respond to the crisis at hand. And so in some ways, despite, Hilary has called it the beautiful chaos of it all, because of the influx that we have, that the volume and the timing of it, despite the beautiful chaos of it all, there are real rays of light and that’s been an encouragement as we go through this incredible process of preparation to receive people.

Kelli Doyle:
And I was so glad that you brought up the public-private partnerships specifically around your funding streams for some of this work. So I’d like to ask a question that’s related to that. And knowing that you do have some dollars coming in from government agencies. And can you talk to us a little bit about where the gaps are, because obviously the dollars coming in from federal and state and local governments, don’t always cover the costs of what this work entails that you both have beautifully laid out the complexity of. So can you talk a little bit about where those gaps are and how philanthropy can really help support you in this moment, in this critical moment.

Ryan Hudnall:
With refugee resettlement, structured and agencies largely reimbursed based on this variable model of arrivals, you can see how, with different administrations, or just different circumstances with other resources required through different programs across the U.S., There’s incredible volatility related to the resettlement. And so I generally think that you want to create some stability that allows you to continue to invest and retain high-quality staff.

Ryan Hudnall:
So the past five years were difficult. Both agencies had to make some difficult decisions, because the resources related to those who were being resettled were far reduced compared to what they have been. And so that adds an element of volatility. As we said, I mean, the program is structured around this idea of public-private partnerships. So we don’t receive ample funding to invest in our staff, make this a viable long-term industry, like a career, because the ebb and flow of how different administrations think about refugee resettlement and invest resources in different areas for whatever the crises are at in the United States.

Ryan Hudnall:
So philanthropy can step forward in a number of critical ways to help create health in this process. And that’s not just for the agencies, but for how we invest in families as part of their transition into Kansas City. One, it’s helping to cover some of those key costs that are understated, like investing in staff. Creating, allowing staff members to see this as not just a moment, but a career so that they continue to grow, invest in community partnerships, such as relationships with property managers, employers, other social service providers. And that also, the longevity, of their time here allows them to have a deeper understanding of different cultural nuances, as well as different trauma-informed practices. And so helping to invest in different staff members and helping cover some of those administrative costs. Critical to creating health with the different agencies.

Ryan Hudnall:
Of course, the amount of funds that we receive rooted in this concept of financial self-sufficiency is limited. It’s very short-term. And so how we can have targeted and strategic investments in direct client assistance, helping meet the critical needs of families to expedite their financial stability. That is so helpful. And particularly because, Hilary was noting, all the different vulnerabilities of the different families that we receive. Understanding and responding to those.

Ryan Hudnall:
The refugee resettlement system is, as we’ve said, rooted in financial self-sufficiency. It’s not necessarily predicated on the idea of what is best in the long term for the health of families. But while employment is an important piece of that. Absolutely. But what about counseling and trauma, and having additional time to process and reflect. And so it’s very contextualized towards the individual families and this concept of financial self-sufficiency increasing the time that allows the affiliate agencies to work with families to overcome those barriers that they’ll have. Learning English, learning the laws, understanding the transportation system, having those resources to do that helps with the family.

Kelli Doyle:
Hilary, anything to add to what Ryan has said?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
So I could not agree more with the idea of investing in this as part of our infrastructure that is important, that shouldn’t, like you said, ebb and flow with the volume of arrivals, to be able to create some stability for agencies.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
I think the other thing that strikes me when I think about the sustainability of this program and what we ask of our clients is, if you were to put yourself in the shoes of a new arrival, you have come to the United States, you probably don’t speak the language, you are in a completely unfamiliar place, you don’t know how to navigate, you have to find work within a very short amount of time. Because agencies like JVS and Della Lamb have $1,225 per person to provide financial support. And after that money is expended, people are expected to be self-sufficient through employment.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
So I cannot imagine how terrifying it would be to be someplace new, to not speak the language, and to have to get a job three months in. I don’t know that I could do it. But this is what we ask of our clients. And this is what they do. Day in and day out, we see the amazing resiliency of people in achieving these outlandish goals that we’ve set for them. And being able to access additional funding for basic needs, support things, like rent and utilities, even an extra month of rent would give somebody the opportunity to take a month of ESL classes, take a certification course at a university. Do something to be able to further their own educational advancement before they have to enter the workforce and be providing for themselves and their families.

Kelli Doyle:
What a great kind of representation of the whole $1,200 in three months to get employed. I don’t know that I could do that either. Incredible, incredible resilience and incredible work that your agencies are doing to help support these individuals and families as they try to navigate that process. Related, we often talk to our donors about giving beyond monetary contributions and we have donors of all sizes represented here at the Community Foundation.

Kelli Doyle:
Both of you have lifted up the journey that these families and individuals go on to make it into the resettlement process, the trauma that they have experienced. And I’ve found in my day-to-day interactions with individuals in our community and nonprofits, that sometimes bringing compassion and awareness to our everyday interactions can be a really priceless gift.

Kelli Doyle:
So, Hilary, I want to start with you with this question, and I’m hoping that you can share with our listeners. What are some things that we as individuals can do or pay attention to as a community that will help these families feel welcomed and safe in Kansas City? Reflecting on how we can step up to be receptive to these families to make that three months and $1,200 to get employed and housed, achievable and just a little bit easier.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Yeah, I think it’s a great question. And I think there are some really targeted things that people can do. I know that both of our agencies are really extending outreach to volunteers. So if people really have a heart for getting engaged, putting some effort into helping people feel welcome, I think there are ample opportunities for them to do that at JVS. We’re calling them our welcome teams. And it is people who will be engaged in helping procure items, household items, furniture, things like that, and going and setting up homes and physically creating that welcoming space for people to come home to. So I think that’s a really straightforward way to get involved.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
I would also say that as we are seeing, we have seen smaller numbers of refugees and immigrants coming into our community over the last few years. And I think both because of the Afghan surge in arrivals and the more gradual rebuilding of refugee resettlement infrastructure, we are going to see more people in our community, in our kids’ schools, in our workplaces, in the grocery store, that come from someplace else and maybe don’t dress like us. Maybe don’t look like us. Maybe don’t speak the same language. And I think, I mean, it sounds so hokey, and I’m really going to say it out loud, just something as simple as smiling at somebody. Making them feel like they’re welcome here. Stepping outside of your own comfort zone just a little bit, and maybe visiting a refugee or immigrant-owned restaurant. Someplace that is outside of your usual path of travel. Makes a huge difference in letting people know that we are interested in their lives, that we support them being in our community and that we want to engage with them and get to know them.

Kelli Doyle:
Ryan, anything to add?

Ryan Hudnall:
Yeah. As we think about giftedness and certainly financial giftedness is so critical to the health of our organizations as we see and respond to needs. What we’re really trying to tap into. We believe that everyone has something to give. Even those in the resettled communities. So we are thinking about how we act if we tap into the giftedness of the resettled communities, as well, to invest in this process. And we articulate that concept is part of what we call Community Champions and Community Advancement your Della Lamb.

Ryan Hudnall:
But we are excited about engaging resettled communities because they have a resiliency, a skillset, language competencies, a different view of our city than those who have been here for a while. It can really help people navigate. And so whether that’s on a financial side, there’s other incredible talents that our community possesses to engage in this process.

Ryan Hudnall:
For others though, maybe not in resettled community, but are thinking about how do I engage in this process. I deeply feel that presence results in transformation. And so as people are thinking about how to support, yes, please, give. That’s important for the families we serve, the health of the agency to respond. But also think about presence. Because once you share presence with someone, everything is different and you see. And so I think that both JVS Della Lamb would say to those who were thinking, maybe I want to get involved, “oh, come and see. Come and share presence with those that we get to welcome and celebrate the beauty of their lives.”

Kelli Doyle:
And for our listeners who might want to become more engaged and perhaps explore some volunteer opportunities, will you each share the contact information for where our donors should go?

Ryan Hudnall:
Yeah, for Della Lamb, we are regularly sharing real-time opportunities to serve via our social media pages, as well as on our website, www.DellaLamb.org. We have a volunteer signup page, which allows people to receive volunteer opportunities right in their inbox.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Yep. And for JVS, it’s a similar system at www.JVSkc.org, and you can complete a volunteer application there and find out about all the opportunities to get connected.

Kelli Doyle:
Thank you. Thank you both. Before we close out, one final question. Is there anything else that you would like to share that you think our listeners should know about this topic or about the work that you’re doing in resettlement that perhaps we haven’t talked about yet?

Hilary Cohen Singer:
I’m still a little bit stuck on what Ryan said in terms of presence is transformation. I think it’s a really beautiful way to capture what is really special about the refugee resettlement process. And I think one thing that I feel really, really lucky to be able to observe is how welcoming Kansas City is. I feel like I have this really unique vantage point on our city from institutions to faith communities, to people who call up and want to help. And it is really inspiring to see how people rise to the occasion. And if anybody is on the fence about whether or not to pick up the phone and make that call, I would encourage people to do that and to find out more about what is happening in refugee resettlement and to get involved, because not only do we need the support, but it is something that I think is enriching for everybody that participates.

Ryan Hudnall:
The topic of refugee resettlement has become so incredibly polarized over the past couple of years. And it need not be that way. What we’ve seen in these particular moments is that people from all different walks of life have engaged and are excited about this process. There’s so much that refugees add to our community in terms of, not just financial benefit of employment and contributing tax dollars, there’s a real richness. Part of the richness of our community is the different pockets of people that are within our community. And they add so much.

Ryan Hudnall:
And so whether it’s the food, the friendship, the culture, this is something that really adds to our city. A new layer of beauty and a new thread of humanity. So I’m so grateful to everyone who is investing and contributing. And if you have questions, like we said, come and see. Discover the joy of this work.

Kelli Doyle:
Hilary, Ryan, thank you so much for joining me today on the Grow Your Giving podcast. If there’s anything that’s going to take me through the rest of today, it is that I see the beauty of the lives that you are working with. And thank you so much for the work that you’re doing in our community.

Hilary Cohen Singer:
Thank you for having us.

Ryan Hudnall:
It was a pleasure to join you, thank you.

Conclusion:
To hear more from the Grow Your Giving podcast, visit us online at greaterhorizons.org/podcast. Thank you for listening.


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