Wednesday, July 19, 2006

June 21: Refugee Advisory Mtg

Today I attended the Refugee Advisory Committee Meeting, per the invitation of Julie, one of the contacts that Baba gave me. Below are the notes from the meeting.

I. Attendees: Gary (ISD 742), Patrick (SCTC), Silvia (City of St. Cloud), Stephanie (Goodwill / Easter Seals), Patti (Lutheran Social Service), Renee (Stearns Co.), Jessica (Child Care Choices), Sarah (Human Rights Fellowship), Julie (St. Cloud Refugee Collaborative)

II. Introductions:
Sarah Drake is a Masters student at SCSU; has a fellowship for the summer to work with Baba Odukale and the Human Rights Office on Somali community issues.

III. Announcements / Updates
1. June 20th was World Refugee Day—some events in the Cities.
2. Jessica: the Child Care subcommittee has been discussing ideas for immigrant / multicultural family child care.
3. Silvia: Mayor’s High Five awards. Diversity award will be given to Whitney Center for the Opening Doors, Building Bridges program.
§ Giving classes and teaching skills to Somali elders (ESL, computers, math, etc).
§ It’s going very well—has changed the culture of Whitney; more integrated.
§ Award will be given Thursday June 22nd, 7 pm, Atwood Center at SCSU.

IV. Discussion
1. Working Families Win (Michelle)
a) WFW is nonprofit, nonpartisan group formed in fall 05 in several states.
§ Raise issues of economic disparity—harder for everyone, including middle class
§ Start conversations at policy level and locally—community meetings.
§ Proposals: higher minimum wage, better access to health care, change in trade agreements to benefit people in US and abroad.
§ Local chapters will work on affordable housing and child care and other local issues.
b) St. Cloud meetings:
§ July 11, 7-9 pm at Southside Boys & Girls Club; July 13, 7-9 pm at St. Peter’s Church, 930 31st Ave. N (partnership with GRIP)
§ Tabletop discussion on democracy, focused on economics.
§ Informal multicultural discussion on Mon June 26th, 3-4:30 pm at the Southside Boys & Girls Club.
c) Refugee issues in St. Cloud:
Language / employment:
§ Lack of language. Employers want to hire people who speak some English, but the welfare system doesn’t allow time to learn English.
§ Many employers require 6 months US work experience before they hire.
§ Often entry-level pay isn’t enough to support a large family.
§ It would be good for employers to offer onsite ESL, but they need incentive.
Housing:
§ Moratorium on new rental properties.
§ Lack of available, affordable units for large families.
§ Silvia: City might redefine “family,” make it more difficult for unrelated people to live together. [This idea was defeated—06-22]
Child care:
§ Funding to counties went slightly up.
§ Reimbursement rates were raised for 1st time in 3 years.
d) WFW advocates for “raise in minimum wage” rather than “livable wage” because govt has influence over it; hard to imagine govt mandating livable wage ($15) as minimum wage. Duluth and Mpls have ordinances requiring employers who receive a certain amt of govt funding to pay a livable wage.
e) WFW is hiring a ft organizer in St. Cloud—please get the word out.

2. Immigrant Community Roundtable meetings
Patrick and Julie attended Immigrant Roundtable meeting on June 9th in St. Paul. Good mix of community organizations and govt. Informational and low-key. Other meetings have been attended by FAIR (anti-immigration group).
Ideas for St. Cloud Roundtable:
§ Set aside every third RAC meeting for an Immigrant Roundtable meeting—widen to include immigrants as well as refugees.
§ Ask Hector to facilitate the first few forums.
§ Get anti-immigrant groups to come by sincerely being interested in hearing their concerns—some concerns may be valid.
§ We’ll start a planning group to figure out our next steps.
§ Involve HR Directors (SHRM)—hear their concerns about employing immigrants. ELL Workgroup at Work Force Center had HR director panel on June 1st; 3 HR directors talked about their experiences. Very helpful. Gold n’ Plump recently offered onsite ESL classes for workers. Safely is a concern for employers—OSHA regulations have to be translated for non English-speaking workers.
§ Other groups to involve: Multicultural Center, UMOS. Vietnamese have been here 20 years; pretty integrated. Schools are seeing more Sudanese and Ethiopians arriving from Minneapolis.

3. New refugee arrivals
Things are on hold for many refugees:
§ Material Support clause has widened the definition of “terrorist,” making many refugees ineligible to come to the US—we might see a drop-off.
§ The new president of Liberia says that it’s safe to come back; US wants to support her, so might not let more Liberians come.
§ In Kenya, Somali refugees are having difficulties with registration process. Kenya also may stop letting Somalis in. We may see less Somalis come to US; no drop-off yet.
§ The situation in Somalia is still not clear. If the new group can keep power, things may become more stable. We may see a slow down in arrivals after next year.

V. Next Meeting
We’ll skip July. Starting in August, we’ll try to hold meetings on a specific day and time every month—Julie will email list to find a date.

I was also provided with a list of services available for refugees and immigrants in St. Cloud

Definitions:

HAW= Hands Across the World
SASSO= St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization
LSS= Lutheran Social Service
SCRS=Somali Community Resettlement Services
CMABE=Central Minnesota Adult Basic Education (Includes 13 school districts including St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids-Rice)
SCSU=St. Cloud State University
SCTC=St. Cloud Technical College
CSB/SJU=College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University
SBETC=Stearns / Benton Employment & Training Council
SCALS=St. Cloud Area Legal Services
DHS=MN Dept. of Human Services
HRA=Housing Redevelopment Authority

Case management: Helping with forms, making appointments for clients, communicating with other agencies about client, assessing needs and making appropriate referrals; translating / interpreting; education / bridging / mediation.

All programs listed are either targeted toward refugees and immigrants or have made efforts to be accessible to refugees and immigrants; mainstream organizations are not listed.
We listed current services and services likely to begin in the next 6 months.

Employment
ESL for work:
HAW, SCRS, CMABE (Operates the Gold n’ Plump project), Jennie-O

Pre-employment skills (learning to work in the US):
Work Force Center / SBETC, SASSO, HAW, LSS, CMABE

Limited occupational training (short-term training for specific jobs):
SCRS (computers), Good Will Easter Seals (retail, cashiers, stockers), Experience Works (all types of work—subsidized wages for 55 +)

Certificate programs (voc / tech):
SCTC (enrollment of immigrants / refugees—Jodi Elness)
SCSU (enrollment of immigrants / refugees—Julie Condon)

Diploma Programs:
SCSU (some scholarships—Multicultural Student Services)
CSB/SJU (Learning partnership)
CMABE (Adult high school completion credential)

Re-certification (transfer of degrees from another country or re-training):
SCTC, SCSU

Case management:
LSS, SBETC

Job development:
LSS, Goodwill Easter Seals, RISE

ESL
HAW (at Southside Boys & Girls Club and Public Library)
CMABE (St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids)
SCSU (Optional ESL testing; college ESL program and pre-college Intensive English Center)
SCTC
Work Force Center (with CMABE)
SCRS (at La Cruz)
Jennie-O (Melrose)
City of St. Cloud / Whitney Center (classes for elders).

Immigration Services
Legal services:
SCALS (DHS)
Laura Tripiciano (attorney)

International services (family reunification):
LSS

Documents / status changes:
LSS, SASSO, St. Cloud Immigrant Resource Services

Citizenship classes:
HAW, CMABE (Classes operating in both St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids)

Youth Development
After-school programs:
Boys & Girls Club (tutoring, arts, leadership development, computers)
Fast Forward (CSB/SJU, SASSO, Boys & Girls Club—tutoring, mentoring, field trips, retreats)

Crime prevention / rehabilitation:
SASSO (work in youth detention centers / jails, and schools; 12-30 yr olds)
Public schools (Multicultural coordinator, ISD 742—meetings with students)
Law enforcement (coming to schools, meeting with students; crime and drug prevention)
Pastors / SASSO / school dist / UMOS / HAW / NAACP

Sports:
Boys & Girls Club
SASSO (soccer)
SCRS (soccer)
ISD 742
City Recreation Dept.

Arts / Cultural activities:
Islamic Center
Centro Hispano (retreats)
SASSO-literature
United Way
Multicultural Center—special events
Kwanzaa

Services to the elderly (55 +)
Whitney Center, Opening doors / building bridges: employment, computer / ESL classes, exercise, social activities

Experience Works—employment (subsidized wages)

Health
Health care / vaccination providers / public health:
Centra Care, Mid-Minnesota Clinic, St. Cloud Medical Group, Health Partners, Williams Integra Care, Project HEAL, St. Cloud Hospital

Health Education:
Project HEAL
Stearns / Benton County Public Health Departments

Mental Health:
Mental Health Center

Domestic Violence:
Anna Marie’s Shelter
SCALS
Stearns / Benton Counties
Housing Coalition—provides shelters
Place across from Walgreens—sexual violence?

Case management:
SASSO, LSS, SCALS, HAW, CMABE, Counties

Parenting
Day Care:
Child Care Choices, Counties (day care subsidies), friends / relatives.

Early Childhood programs-preschool:
ISD 742 Family Literacy Program
(HAW: Early Childhood ESL offered during adult ESL classes)

Parenting Education:
CMABE Family Literacy Programs (Classes operating in both St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids)

Housing
Public housing / subsidized housing—income-based rent (specific buildings):
HRA (Wilson Apts, Empire Apts)
Catholic Charities (La Cruz)
Housing Coalition
Woodland Apts

Section 8 (voucher-based rent assistance; movable):
HRA

Case management:
Housing Coalition
SASSO

Temporary Shelter:
Housing Coalition
Salvation Army
Anna Marie’s Shelter (domestic violence victims)
Place of Hope
Dream Center (single men)

Market renters (unsubsidized):
INH, Timberland, 727 apts, Afton apts, Sunrise.
(Give informal help, familiar with refugees / immigrants)

Owning a house:
Habitat for Humanity

Legal issues / advocacy:
SCALS
LSS (advocacy)
Human Rights Office
SASSO (advocacy)

Financial services / tax returns
Filing tax returns:
Tri-Cap, MN Dept of Revenue, St. Cloud Immigrant Resource Services

Financial education (how to use a bank…):
Stearns, Benton, and Sherburne Counties

Case management:
LSS, SASSO, SCALS

Transportation
Cars / private transportation (assistance with car repairs; car ownership):
Catholic Charities (?)

Providing rides:
Tri-Cap
Bethlehem Lutheran Church (van for people who are moving)

Public transportation:
Metro Bus—also provides education with “Bus Ambassadors” program
Work Force Center—bus cards for MFIP clients

Drivers Ed:
Friends / relatives

Obtaining drivers license—case management:
SASSO
LSS

Cross cultural / daily living skills / social services (this is the catch-all)
SASSO: Case management; advocacy; cultural education of the greater community
United Way: Cultural education of the greater community
LSS: Case management; advocacy; cultural education of the greater community
HAW: Case management; advocacy; cultural education of the greater community
SCRS:
Multicultural Center: Cultural education—some special events
City Hall Human Rights Division: advocacy
CMABE: Case management; advocacy; cultural education of the greater community

Education on specialized topics: HAW (food health etc…); Project HEAL (health ed.)

1 Comments:

Blogger N. Panchmatia said...

Hi Sarah, I am a student at SCSU - currently in the same masters program as you were in. Could you kindly contact me as I am also studying Somali culture? E-mail: sedbit@msn.com - Thank You!

10:15 AM  

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