When a refugee family or individual is approved for resettlement in the U.S., their case is assigned to a national refugee resettlement agency, such as ECDC. We then plan for their initial resettlement in a specific community where we have a local office. This pre-arrival planning is one of the components of the Reception and Placement (R&P) program administered by the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). It is designed to assist refugees settling into a new home in the U.S. The R&P program lasts between 30 to 90 days for each case resettled.
During this time, local office staff and dedicated volunteers welcome arriving refugee families at the airport, provide them with furnished housing, give them appropriate clothing, and orient them on how to stay safe in their new homes and community. Beyond ensuring refugees’ basic needs are met, the R&P program helps connect newcomers to health services, schools for children, language classes for adults, job readiness training, public benefits enrollment, and more. These essential services, combined with cultural orientation, help refugee families start the path to self-sufficiency. During the R&P period, local office staff assess the needs of each family and make referrals to other programs and services that they can benefit from since 90-days is a very short period of time, and most families need additional support to attain lasting integration and success.
The special Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) program was set up to provide services essentially similar to R&P for individuals and families who had to evacuate after the Taliban takeover in August 2021 and were granted entry to the U.S. under Operation Allies Welcome.
Sardar and his family arrived in Las Vegas and, at first, he was very nervous and worried due to his lack of English skills, being unfamiliar with the culture and city, and the uncertainties of the future. The condominium that was secured for Sardar’s family was fully furnished by Lighthouse Charities. They provided beds for everyone in the family, bedding, a sofa, and a dining table with chairs. The volunteers from Lighthouse Charities coordinated the delivery of the furniture for the family and specifically set them up. Sardar remarked that he was astonished and amazed at how friendly the volunteers were and how the community members showed compassion and care for his family.
For many refugees, it takes more than 90 days to secure a job and make enough money to pay all their living costs. Individuals who would benefit from additional support with job skill building and placement can be enrolled in the Matching Grant (MG) program. This program is funded by the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is open to refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, Cuban/Haitian entrants, certain Amerasians from Vietnam, and Special Immigrant Visa holders.
To be eligible for the MG program, participants must enroll within their first month after arrival and meet certain employment requirements. Local office staff provides assistance to help individuals build resumes, practice interviewing, find and apply for jobs, improve their English, learn basic financial literacy, complete short skills courses in hospitality, and ultimately secure employment. This support lasts up to 240 days. Participating families cannot access public cash assistance but are instead given a monthly allowance for their participation in the program to help with rent, utility payments, and transportation costs.
This program is called a “matching” grant because it is designed as a public-private partnership. Local offices mobilize community support and gain cash contributions, in-kind donations, and volunteer support to “match” the support provided by the federal government.
Kendra fled gender-based persecution in her home country of El Salvador. After months of waiting, she was granted asylum, allowing her to live and work in the U.S without the threat of deportation. She reached out to ECDC’s Denver office for assistance getting a job. Due to the pandemic, Kendra had to wait several more months to get the necessary employment authorization, but her MG case worker walked beside her and helped her learn and prepare, including interviewing for jobs, while she waited. After finally getting her documents, Kendra secured a job as a warehouse associate with assistance from the MG team. She consistently worked 40-60 hours per week, often earning overtime pay, and was soon able to move into a new apartment.
Most newcomers can work and become self-sufficient with some guidance and support in a matter of months. However, some individuals need a more holistic and longer-term approach to integrate into the local community due to their specific vulnerabilities. The Preferred Communities (PC) program is funded by the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is designed to serve newcomer populations with severe medical conditions, who lack family support systems or are experiencing psychological trauma. Individuals can enroll in the program within five years after arrival. They will receive intensive case management to help them overcome barriers and navigate mental health and medical care in the U.S. for 180-365 days.
Like the MG program, PC is open to ORR-eligible populations, which extends to refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, Cuban/Haitian entrants, Amerasians, and Special Immigrant Visa holders. The types of vulnerabilities addressed under this program include individuals experiencing social or psychological difficulties; survivors of torture; youth and young adults without parents; elderly individuals without a family support system; and individuals with disabilities or medical conditions.
Participants in the PC program get support from their case managers to meet their unique needs and connect to community resources to achieve self-sufficiency and function in mainstream society.
Ismail, a young Syrian man with Cerebral Palsy, was resettled in San Diego by ECDC’s affiliate the Alliance for African Assistance. He received the initial R&P program and was considered self-sufficient. Four years later, however, a staff member came across Ismail and learned that he had gotten into a physical fight with his landlord, lost his housing, and was currently homeless. Concerned for the client’s well-being and recognizing his need for immediate help, the staff enrolled Ismail in the PC program. After the intake and needs assessment, Ismail’s case manager noted that he would need assistance with his medications, as he was no longer receiving necessary treatment, housing, referrals to benefits, and assistance with the legal ramifications of the fight with the landlord. Over the course of a year, the case manager helped Ismail step by step on all of these issues. He saw a neurologist, received physical therapy, transitioned to first temporary then permanent housing, participated in ESL classes, and began paying his bills with Supplement Security Income. Ismail exited the program after meeting his goals and thriving in all service areas.