When I first began writing this blog in July 2007, one of the issues that attracted my attention was the puzzling decision by the Virginia Council of Churches, working for major resettlement contractor Church World Service, to place refugees in one of the worst buildings in the worst section of Hagerstown, MD.
But, here we are 11 years later and Church World Service has placed Congolese refugees in Greensboro, NC in housing that is managed by a company that has a record of many years of troubling business practices.
I’m sure CWS rejoinder is—well give us more taxpayer money and we will get them nicer apartments.
And, I say, this was supposed to be a public-private partnership, so how about you, CWS, raising private money from your churches to help these Africans you placed (so that North Carolina meatpackers could have cheap compliant labor)!
It all began with that fire that killed five Congolese children. We wrote about it here (fire marshal determined food had been left on the stove).
But, that isn’t the end of it as a Congolese refugee, the father of the dead children, asks (in a heated meeting):
“We are refugees from Africa, we want to know if we have rights.”
I know what some of my readers will say to the Africans, but have some compassion, I’m sure most were never fully informed of what to expect in America.
CWS does much of our processing in Africa and they surely painted a rosy welcoming picture for the Congolese. (In June 2013, the Obama Administration told the UN that we would take 50,000 from the DR Congo over 5 years. They are still coming!)
From Triad City Beat:
Safety concerns persist at complex that houses Congolese refugees
Congolese refugees, resettlement agencies and the owners of the Heritage Apartments give conflicting accounts of maintenance efforts in the wake of a deadly fire that took the lives of five children last month.
Representatives of two agencies that resettle and support refugees in Greensboro had given lengthy presentations about their menu of services to the group of Congolese refugees packed into a sweltering community room at Heritage Apartments on a recent Saturday.
One of the residents, the father of five children who were killed in a fire last month at the apartment complex, asked a pointed question.
“We are refugees from Africa,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “We want to know if we have rights.”
Many of the residents, who work low-paying and grueling jobs in chicken plants in Wilkes and Lee counties, complained about going to the hospital for treatment and coming home with insurmountable hospital bills. Others complained that their apartments lack air-conditioning units.
How about BIG CHICKEN coming up with money for the hospital bills (and air conditioners for their workers)!
Earlier in the meeting, Lynn Thompson, outreach director for the New Arrivals Institute, ventured an answer to the question about refugees’ rights, alluding to widespread community concern about the deadly fire and poor conditions at the apartment complex, which is owned and managed by the Agapion family.
Go buy your own air conditioners says resettlement agency!
“It’s really bad for us,” Anzuruni Juma said through a translator. “When we moved in we didn’t know we only had heating to keep warm in the winter, and nothing to keep cool in the summer. Sometimes we can’t even sleep and have to go to a neighbor’s place to cool off.”
Rachel Lee, a program coordinator for African Services Coalition — one of two resettlement agencies, along with Church World Services, responsible for placing refugees at Heritage Apartments — suggested the residents go to Lowes or Walmart to purchase window units for their apartments. The residents said they don’t earn enough money to be able to afford air-conditioning, prompting some talk that the refugee agencies might turn to churches for donations.
Refugee advocates not happy with Church World Serve and African Services Coalition (Ethiopian Community Development Council)
Some of the advocates directed pointed questions, alongside the residents, at the representatives of the two resettlement agencies.
See Heritage Apartments landlord has history of tenant conflict (2008), and so didn’t CWS or this ECDC subcontractor know any of this? Do the contractors get some special benefits from choosing certain landlords?
See other posts on Greensboro, here.
So where are the humanitarian churches*** willing to help the refugees of Greensboro (and America!)?
Too busy protesting the President to do their Christian duty?
Do you belong to one of these churches represented by CWS? If so, ask what is your church getting out of it?
African Methodist Episcopal Church
- African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
- Alliance of Baptists
- American Baptist Churches USA
- Armenian Church of America (including Diocese of California)
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- Church of the Brethren
- Community of Christ
- The Coptic Orthodox Church in North America
- Ecumenical Catholic Communion
- The Episcopal Church
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Friends United Meeting
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- Hungarian Reformed Church in America
- International Council of Community Churches
- Korean Presbyterian Church in America
- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
- Mar Thoma Church
- Moravian Church in America
- National Baptist Convention of America
- National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.
- National Missionary Baptist Convention of America
- Orthodox Church in America
- Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A.
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
- Polish National Catholic Church of America
- Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
- Reformed Church in America
- Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A. and Canada
- The Swedenborgian Church
- Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America
- United Church of Christ
- The United Methodist Church