For release: Friday, September 12, 2008

Contact:        Rebecca Karcher, Public Information, 427-1120

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Mayor Tom Henry, FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, Bishop John D'€™Arcy, Congressman Mark Souder announce new and expanded services to help the refugees successfully  integrate into our community and how everyone can benefit from a new centralized Community Resource Center for Refugees.

Fort Wayne, IND---Mayor Tom Henry announced today that Fort Wayne will open a new Community Resource Center for Refugees this fall. The Center will offer assistance to the several thousand new refugees who are struggling with accessing services and integrating into the Fort Wayne community. The Resource Center will serve refugees from Burma, Somalia and other regions of the world whom the US State Department offered “shelter” in this country from dangerous political regimes around the globe.

Fort Wayne has long welcomed immigrants and refugees who must leave their homelands to find safety,” said Mayor Henry. “This Resource Center will be a valuable point of contact and collaboration for our new arrivals, helping them navigate the important social services and programs they need to begin to truly become part of the Fort Wayne community.  I want to publicly thank Family and Social Service Agency Secretary Mitch Roob for all his hard work in working with our community to make sure the various pieces of this project came together in the way that best serves the refugees and best works for our community.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Henry and team work from our community partners, we are happy to offer these enhanced services to this vulnerable population,” said FSSA'€™s Roob. “By utilizing systems that are already in place, it is our hope to meet the specific needs of the Burmese Refugees and help them establish a specific health care plan.”

The Resource Center will offer established community businesses, employers and individuals a place to connect with new refugees as well as provide a variety of self-sufficiency programs, English language classes, employment assistance services, healthcare navigation, assistance with issues related to public schooling for children, disease prevention education, limited preventive health care and other services needed by new  refugees. These services are aimed at an estimated one thousand refugees who are beyond their “relocation and placement services (typically 180 days)” and less than five years since their arrival in our country.  These services will be supplemental and offer a continuum of care to the initial resettlement and placement services provided by Catholic Charities for those refugees whose “port of entry” in the U.S. is through Fort Wayne.     

The new international integration center will be located at 2826 South Calhoun Street in space donated by the Anthony Wayne Services (AWS) Foundation.  The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation will provide a grant to underwrite tenant fix-ups and the ongoing operating costs as a part of their commitment to operate the facility as well as serving as the fiscal agent for $490,000 in federal grants from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. These grants will help to underwrite seven new positions as well as program services to be housed in the facility. St. Joseph Community Health Foundation Director Meg Distler acknowledged the important roles of Mayor Tom Henry,  Bishop D'€™Arcy, Congressman Mark Souder, Senator Richard Lugar and Senator Evan Bayh in helping to build a local coalition and to speak strongly on its behalf over the past six months in Washington DC  which helped Allen County to earn these federal grants to provide supplemental services.

A $300,000 grant from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will provide supplemental services to recently arriving refugees who'€™ve been here at least 90 days including:

·       Funding of The Reclamation Project to expand its “Circle of Friends” program which matches trained community volunteers in friendship and mentorship to newly arriving refugee families to assist with their integration into the community;

·       Funding of the Burmese Advocacy Center and Catholic Charities to establish a Health Navigator to assist refugees in accessing the local medical community and in attaining health and wellness.

·       Funding of the East Allen County School System for a Burmese Family Liaison to work closely with Burmese families whose students are enrolled in East Allen County Schools.

·       Funding of Ivy Tech Community College to create curriculum and offer a “Train-the-Trainer” program in how to teach “English-As-A-Second Language” Classes.

A second grant of $190,000 from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement will fund the Burmese Advocacy Center '€˜s ability to establish three new staff positions and operating costs to offer:

·        Employment assistance and workplace skills training

·        Self sufficiency skills classes and services  

·        General assistance with translation, interpretation and cultural understanding

Indiana'€™s FSSA will also establish an office at the new center with an Eligibility Specialist who is bi-lingual and of Burmese decent.  He will process all appointments and help with the initial intake process. This person will be assisted by other FSSA staff in getting this population Medicaid and Food Stamp benefits. Computers for self enrollment using the FSSA'€™s new modernized eligibility system will also be provided to further increase the quality and quantity of services provided.

FSSA will also work to bring specialized medical care coordination for Burmese refugees organized to address some of the common medical and cultural needs specific to individuals arriving from Asian refugee camps.  According to Secretary Roob, “Utilizing care coordination through Advantage will enable FSSA to more effectively treat those in need of immediate medical care.” Office space for Advantage will be provided at the new Community Resource Center for Refugees.  

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation also plans to base a “Healthy Homes and Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program” outreach health educator services for refugees at the Center as well. This position will help educate refugees diagnosed with lead poisoning and/or asthma on the best practices to clean and maintain homes to help reduce the risks of asthma, lead poisoning and other illnesses as western household management is new and different to individuals who are used to rural housing in Burma.

In addition, discussions are underway to offer other services potentially including a household goods and clothing bank, a culturally appropriate food bank, housing services, English-as-a-Second-Language classes and more. Any agency wishing to have access to an office or conference room for a few hours to a regular schedule to reach the refugees with any of the above services or new services should contact the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation at 969-2001 ext. 201.

Members of the Refugee Resource Coalition who are actively involved in supporting this new resource center include: Anthony Wayne Services Foundation; Burmese Advocacy Center; Catholic Charities; City of Fort Wayne; East Allen County Schools; Family & Social Services Administration; Fort Wayne- Allen County Dept. of Health; Ivy Tech Community College; St. Joseph Community Health Foundation; and The Reclamation Project. 

It is estimated that approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Burmese refugees and immigrants have recently relocated to Northeast Indiana establishing one of the largest Burmese populations in the world outside of Burma itself. It is estimated that one-third of these individuals have been resettled in Fort Wayne as their “port of entry” by the US State Department and Catholic Charities within the past five years.  The remaining two-thirds have chosen to migrate to Fort Wayne to meet up with other friends and extended family members after the State Department officially “settled” them in other American cities.   Many estimate 1,000-2,000+ new Burmese are expected to settle in the area for at least each of the next three years. Because of the extraordinary circumstances, the need for a centralized community center to address the needs of refugees in the Fort Wayne area has never been greater. This refugee resource center will be well-positioned to address the immediate needs of local refugee populations, as well as assist in the longer term, assimilation of those populations into the larger community. Doors are expected to open in about 30 days.