Afghan Refugees: IRIS Misuses Resettlement $$

Aliyya Swaby Photo Reza Noori risked his life working as a translator for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Now a refugee living in New Haven, he faces a different battle — one he said he fights with little help.

Noori is one of five Afghan refugees who claim that the local resettlement agency Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) has neglected to provide them with adequate support for finding employment and housing upon their arrival in New Haven. After they spent years providing crucial services for the U.S. military, the former translators said, the country is not doing the same for them.

They said that the organization provides refugees with substandard, unsafe housing; that they often approached IRIS employees for help and were ignored or treated coldly; and that IRIS focused on refugees’ immediate employment often to the detriment of their health and long-term potential.

Chris George, the agency’s director, responded that IRIS does a good job with limited funding and personnel, and that individual refugees have unrealistic expectations of their lives in a new country.

“A refugee center is supposed to be a public/private partnership. Also, in the minds of Congress, it’s supposed to be a bit of a struggle. Our job is make sure that it’s not too difficult,” he said. “Comments like, ‘Why was I brought to America to be a dishwasher?’ are not going to go over well in an American audience. The response will be: ‘Aren’t you grateful’?”

IRIS had planned to cap the number of refugees received at 200 this year, which is “blasphemy in the world of refugee resettlement,” George (pictured) said. Despite the plan, “we went over” to about 230 refugees, he said.

Noori, who is 25, said he began translating for the army in February 2010. He applied for a visa in September 2011. He arrived in New Haven on Nov. 26, 2013 — a more than two-year wait.

Noori knew no one in New Haven when he arrived that night in November. An employee from IRIS met him at Union Station and took him to his new apartment, rented in advance. He had his own room there.

He decided to leave after one night, since it was “not a good place,” he said. The doors had no locks. The toilet didn’t flush. The water was cold; so was the entire apartment, Noori said. His new roommates were Iraqi refugees. He would have preferred to stay with people from his own country to navigate the difficulties of this new one.

The next day, Noori went to IRIS’ office and met Javid Akbari, also from Afghanistan. He decided to live with him instead.

All five of the Afghan refugees who spoke to the Independent live in apartments in the same building on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard. Noori shares a one-bedroom with three other people; each of the four pays $187.50 per month.

The apartment is cramped and often lacks heat in the winter. The building’s elevator is broken.

Miles Of Red Tape

Fear of persecution drives refugees from their home countries and into refugee camps — often marking a long wait before they are invited to re-settle in another country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is responsible for determining an individual’s refugee status and ensuring they are adequately protected.

The U.S. invited about 70,000 refugees last year to resettle within its borders. The Department of State allocates those thousands to nine organizations across the country, which each distribute cases to about 30 or 40 small nonprofits—about 350 total, including IRIS. Refugees have some choice in the matter, if they know someone in a certain part of the country who can help make their resettlement easier; if not, they are assigned arbitrarily.

Located at 235 Nicoll St. in the East Rock neighborhood, IRIS was created in 1982 by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. It has an independent board of directors. The two groups have been connected, up until next year, when IRIS will be “on our own,” George said.

Since 2009, Afghan nationals who were employed as translators or interpreters for the U.S. Armed Forces can apply for special immigrant visas (SIVs), since they often face persecution from insurgents for their involvement. Despite the immediate danger these translators face, the process of applying for a visa is long and difficult.

When they flee to the U.S., they encounter red tape. The National Defense Authorization Act for the upcoming fiscal year authorizes 4,000 visas to be issued to Afghan nationals; the multi-step application requires the submission of more than a dozen documents, a petition process, an interview and a lot of months of waiting.

Shallow Pool Fund

In a recent segment detailing the difficulties of the process, comedian John Oliver pointed out that even a donkey, sent from a military base in Iraq, went through less bureaucracy to come to the U.S. than the average Afghan human refugee does. It took the donkey eight months.

The U.S. government gives resettlement agencies $1,875 upon each refugee’s arrival — “welcome money.” The agency must spend a minimum of $925 on the individual refugee over the first one to three months, helping with rent payments and basic necessities. For particularly vulnerable clients, such as single mothers with children, George said IRIS puts $200 of the remaining $950 into a “pool fund” for “direct services. 

The remaining $750-$950 per client goes toward keeping IRIS up and running, George said. “It pays for the case managers, for rent, for utilities.”

About 60 percent of the organization’s yearly 1.3 million comes from the federal government — including the refugees’ resettlement benefits — and 40 percent from grants. IRIS holds an annual fundraising event called “Run for Refugees,” which George said does not necessarily raise a lot of money but does raise awareness in the New Haven community.

That breakdown is not uncommon. Bridgeport’s resettlement agency International Institute of Connecticut (IICONN) brings in about $1.7 million in revenue, 54 percent from the government and 46 percent from grants and fundraising events. The organization works on resettlement out of its Bridgeport office and has different programs in offices in Hartford and Stamford.

IICONN also uses the welcome money to pay for rent and startup costs. They try to rely as much as possible on donations, said Bonnie Kern, the agency’s programs director. “We try to have as many strategic partnerships as possible, so we don’t have to use the money on household items…Without that, the client would have no money,” she said.

IRIS employs 11 people full time and 10 part time, including seven staff members in the case management department who assist refugees from the moment they arrive at the train station. George said he has ads up for two new employees, in employment services and case management.

A steady flow of volunteers bolsters the organization’s work: “We wouldn’t be able to do half the things we do without” them, George said.

At A Dead End

Tim Pham (pictured right with Noori) began volunteering with IRIS in October 2013 and was placed as a “cultural companion.” Through that position, he met Akbari and then Noori, and a number of others, many of whom expressed their dissatisfaction with the agency, and their new lives.

Pham started out as an English tutor. His role broadened as he became friends with the guys to entail “being there to ask, ‘What do you need? What can I do?’”

Getting a job is one of the most difficult tasks newcomers face, even if they speak English. Refugees said IRIS gave little to no direction on how or where to search. It took Noori seven months to find a full-time job.

He said he found a number on a sign advertising a job selling vacuum cleaners with the promise of commission. He said he asked someone at IRIS and was told to go forward with the interview and application process. However, after traveling to Shelton for an interview, training for three days, and attempting to sell vacuum cleaners for a week, he realized he was not going to get his $500 weekly.

Eventually, he found a job through a roommate at a craft butchery in Westport. He commutes daily by train.

George said he expects “a single, healthy young man who speaks English to get a job in three months.” He said he was not sure Noori “was willing to do any job in order to pay his rent, partly because of the culture he has come from. ... A lot of clients come from countries where certain jobs are considered beneath them.”

Noori’s neighbor Mohammad Fardeen Shahnan said he wants a job that pays the bills but also that gives him some chance of upward mobility. He waited two and a half years for SIV application approval, then another 14 months to arrive in the U.S. His family is under threat back in Afghanistan. “I fought with the U.S. forces shoulder by shoulder. I was hit by an IED, [improvised explosive device]; I faced a lot of ambushes. While we were in Afghanistan, we were promised a lot of things,” he said.

Shahnan, who is 29, was a manager in Afghanistan, working full-time and studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration.  He was about to finish his third year of his degree before he came to the U.S. on Feb. 14, 2014. He had hoped to continue his studies at Gateway Community College, but it didn’t accept his credits, he said. He said his IRIS case manager discouraged him from studying until he found a job.

Now he earns about $800 monthly working part-time at Dunkin Donuts, with little chance of advancement. His bills exceed $1,000. He also receives about $600 per month from social services.

“With this job I’m working right now, I will never improve. That’s the hardest thing. That hurt me,” he said.

Shahnan said he wants to find a full-time job and has been sending his resume to hotels, supermarkets, and language centers. He said he sent emails to IRIS asking for help but hasn’t heard any response.

$65.98 For A Car Seat

Most critiques refugees had of IRIS revolved around poor communication and organization. The men who talked to the Independent said they rarely knew exactly where their money was going, where their paperwork was, or what local services they were qualified to use or receive.

For example, Akbari had health problems that landed him in the emergency room soon after he arrived in the United States. He said when he went to IRIS multiple times to ask them how to deal with bills that totaled more than $1,000, they told him to ignore it. He got a final notice from the hospital in December and made his first payment of $50 on Dec. 11 — realizing too late that he qualified to apply for free care.

Abdul Samad, who is 32, said IRIS mismanaged the use of his family’s welcome money, in part by charging him for items he did not need or request.

For example, according to the receipt, IRIS charged $65.98 to his account in September for a booster and car seat from Amazon.com — but Samad does not have a car and cannot afford one. The two boxes sit unopened in a corner of his bedroom.

George said he has to charge refugees for car seats so volunteers can take the children to doctor’s appointments. “I hate to do it, but we have to.” He said he gets a lot of complaints from this about refugees, many of who have misconceptions about the resettlement benefits, based on what they were told overseas. “It’s stressful for my staff to be constantly accused of withholding money or spending it without permission or on things they don’t want.”

He said he dissects the entire process in a mandatory six-part cultural orientation program when refugees first arrive.

“Our communication can always be better. We can have better interpretation,” he said.

Noori showed the Independent a letter his friend received from IRIS notifying her that “IRIS has decided to stop providing services to [her] and [her] family, effective immediately.”

The letter said she had “time and again … chosen not to comply with our expectations and recommendations, most importantly regarding your financial responsibilities,” including failures to work full-time, look for affordable child care, pay rent, stick to a reasonable budget or acknowledge damage done to the apartment.

“IRIS cannot accept this behavior any longer. We are prepared to discuss once you have paid your back rent” of more than $1,000, the letter ends, above George’s signature.

The recipient is a single mother with two children, in the U.S. for more than 90 days; she does not speak English. Noori had to translate the letter for her, from English to Persian. She paid the back rent and met with IRIS staff but is still being shut out. She declined to have her full story in the Independent; she said she fears never being able to get help from the agency again.

George claimed IRIS had not recently severed ties with any refugees. He said that in “extreme” cases, they have just “sent a number of letters to people saying, ‘If you don’t pay your rent and stick with jobs that are perfectly good, we will not be able to maintain the services.’” He said that in all these cases, at least in recent history, the problems have been resolved.

“We said, ‘O.K., fine. We will not cut services,’” George said. “I don’t like to call it a threat. It’s just saying the reality: if they’re not going to get with it, there’s only so much we can do.”

Lost Promises

Samad (pictured) is considering going back to Afghanistan, although he faces the risk of being targeted and killed. “I don’t care about the danger,” he said. “If I die, my family can treat themselves in a good way in their own house.”

He said he was promised dental care after he “lost [his] teeth in an ambush,” but hasn’t found it to be true.

Ahmad — who declined to use his last name, fearing retaliation on his family in Afghanistan — flipped through photos of himself sitting at his office desk working a former managerial position back home. He and the others reminisced about their past lives. They are targets because of their association with the U.S. military; otherwise, they would be back in Afghanistan in a heartbeat. They miss their families.

George said he understands that the transition is difficult. He said he would like to be able to help people like Noori and Shahnan complete their educations. But he said the government cannot support them “100 percent.”

“Part of me is grateful that we have clients who complain. It reminds me that they are in a country where ... they can criticize a government program openly. They’re exercising a basic human right,” George said. “Even if they’re not valid, it does make me think of ways to improve.”

Thanks to a “generous” church donation last summer, IRIS is now able to give its clients Tempur Pedic mattresses without cost, he said. In the past, refugees suffered bedbug infestations from donated mattresses.

But the refugees said that they think IRIS can do better, and that they deserve more. Standing in his new apartment, in a country where he is unable to make a decent living cleaning hotel rooms, Samad raised his voice in frustration.

“The U.S. Army told us that we are going to heaven, but this is hell,” he said. “This is not heaven.”

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Comments

posted by: robn on December 29, 2014  3:52pm

Life can be tough in New Haven. i just didn’t know that it could be worse than an IED exploding in your face.

posted by: BalancedJustice on December 29, 2014  3:54pm

George said he has to charge refugees for car seats so volunteers can take the children to doctor’s appointments. “I hate to do it, but we have to.” Why are these charges against a young man who has no children? This smells really bad. If IRIS is an agency that helps refugees, the director and employees should have fundamental understanding of the refugee population and some simple basics such as housing together people who can relate to each other.  Refugees should be provided with the most essential information about health care, making out applications, and looking for a job. Because IRIS employees have their own preconceived notions about refugees does not give them the right to exploit their situations. Housing should be a basic, so is access to health care.  Putting people in squalor because you believe they don’t know better is insulting. What does this say about the USA?
For several years other former refugees have been complaining about how IRIS uses funds and the poor services the organization provides. If it’s “It’s stressful for my staff to be constantly accused of withholding money or spending it without permission or on things they don’t want,” you should change the practice.  Why should a young single man be paying for car seat he does not need, but not be able to get what he needs? I doubt that IRIS would exist if there were not benefits to its operators.
Mr. George, please put yourself in these people’s shoes. What would you want from IRIS?

posted by: NewHavenish on December 29, 2014  5:44pm

Young professional men who sell vacuums, work at Dunkin Donuts, take a train to Westport to work at a craft butcher, don’t strike me as men who don’t want to work jobs that might be considered beneath them. Perhaps IRIS could partner with Gateway, consider an educational component to services.

As far as car seats go, why charge the refugees? IRIS could keep a supply for volunteers to use for trips to the doctor. Solicit donations of new car seats, from corporations and individuals. I recently donated 4 new car seats to an organization in New Haven, because they told me they needed them.

Sounds like there needs to be better communication between ISIS and those they serve. The job board looked pretty spotty. A clear accountability of how their welcome fund is spent. Better than sub-standard housing. Hot water and flush toilets.

posted by: Chris George on December 29, 2014  8:54pm

The man who complained about getting car seats he didn’t need, is not “a young man who has no children.”  He is a father of two small children who can not ride legally – or safely – in a car without the proper car seats.  He said he does not need the car seats because he does not have a car.  But IRIS has made it a practice to supply all young children with their own car seats, not only so that staff and/or volunteers can transport them with their families to various appointments, but so that when their families make friends with people who do have cars, the friends will not be tempted to give the family a ride (to the supermarket or the halal store or a social event) without putting the children in car seats.  Sometimes the car seats are donated by generous supporters. But we think—and most refugees agree—that it’s worth spending a little money up front when the life of a child is at risk.

posted by: Bradley on December 29, 2014  9:17pm

BalamcedJustice, the article implies that Abdul Samad in fact has one or more children (it refers to “his family” - clarification would be helpful). Having people with similar backgrounds share housing would be preferable but is often Infeasible. IRIS typically gets about a week’s notice before a refugee arrives. It does not own temporary housing where a refugee (and often his or her family) could stay until “suitable” housemates arrive.

IRIS faces a conundrum. Even if it spent its entire budget on rent, it would be hard pressed to cover a refugee’s expenses for more than a couple of months. This means that refugees must take the first available job, even if it is well below their abilities. Unfortunately, this reality is not limited to refugees.

Newhavenish, IRIS does have educational programs, but they focus on basic education. Many of the refugees speak little or no English and many have had their schooling interrupted by wars and other conflicts.  BTW, I like the idea of targeted solicitations, e.g., for car seats.

posted by: Rez on December 30, 2014  12:43am

If IRIS does not help a SINGLE MOTHER REFUGEE WITH TWO CHILDREN, POOR HEALTH, INABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH SETTING A DOCTOR APPOINTMENT FOR CHILDREN than what really IRIS does? It is unbelievable but this is what IRIS doing now.

posted by: HewNaven on December 30, 2014  9:30am

He said he found a number on a sign advertising a job selling vacuum cleaners with the promise of commission. He said he asked someone at IRIS and was told to go forward with the interview and application process. However, after traveling to Shelton for an interview, training for three days, and attempting to sell vacuum cleaners for a week, he realized he was not going to get his $500 weekly.

Needing several months to find a good job is not uncommon in America. These guys won’t find much sympathy there. But it definitely seems that IRIS is stretched thin and/or mismanaged. Why isn’t there anyone on staff who knows about local jobs. Everyone who has looked for a job in Southern CT knows about the Kirby vacuum multilevel marketing scheme. It’s been around for years. Why doesn’t IRIS pay someone to filter these kinds of job postings?? Then again, I’m sure it was a good, hard lesson for that refugee…

posted by: HewNaven on December 30, 2014  9:37am

Now he earns about $800 monthly working part-time at Dunkin Donuts, with little chance of advancement. His bills exceed $1,000. He also receives about $600 per month from social services.

Now you’re a real American. Get used to working full-time yet still needing assistance. It’s definitely not a warzone, but you are somewhat a part of a slave-class that we call the ‘poor’ here. No wonder so many turn to crime?!

posted by: wbstar on December 30, 2014  9:38am

IRIS is an amazing organization doing incredible things with the little resources they have. I have witnessed IRIS at work in the NHPS system and they go above and beyond for the refugee families they are helping to transition to life in the USA. Anyone who has anything negative to say should go volunteer their time at IRIS and see what they are really about.

posted by: A.T. on December 30, 2014  12:06pm

Fifteen full-time and five part-time employees for an organization that serves an average of 200 people a year- and still ineffectual? Given the poor help on the job front and the fundraising side, perhaps reduce the number of employees and look for more qualified individuals, even if that means paying them more.

It’s not unknown here in New Haven, that IRIS has serious problems. The org provides an essential service and it’s a worthy cause. I hope it can pull itself up.

posted by: Emily G on December 30, 2014  12:45pm

I am a former IRIS volunteer, and all I can say is IRIS does incredible work with extremely limited resources. They have some of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals on staff, doing very difficult work with vulnerable people, people who often have, as Chris George says, unrealistic expectations for their new life in America. The struggles highlighted by these clients are common, and worthy of attention, but the shortcomings are not a result of mismanagement, but rather a broken system. How can anyone, even the most skilled and motivated individual be expected to go from nothing to completely self-sufficient in 60 days in a foreign country with less than $1000? Refugee resettlement work is one of the most noble things our government does, and yet they offer such meager support for these new Americans. Barring major federal reform and a huge increase in spending, the work IRIS does can only be improved with broad-based community support. IRIS needs good landlords with quality apartments to rent to clients with no credit history, often on very short notice. They need partnerships with local businesses to provide safe jobs that pay a living wage. They need community members to donate new and gently used personal and household items so staff don’t need to spend client’s precious resources on essentials. If more New Haven residents got involved by donating time, goods, or money, stories like this one would be unheard of.

posted by: Amy EE on December 30, 2014  1:11pm

I have worked with IRIS and its clients, and have nothing but praise for this amazing organization that does so much on a shoestring budget.  I have lots of empathy for how hard it must be to come here as a refugee, and in my experience, IRIS works incredibly hard, utilizing lots of volunteer assistance, to make that challenging process a little bit easier; but without doubt, it is a long hard process to come to a new country where you don’t know the language and your prior skills are not readily translatable into good jobs.  I have seen IRIS staff and volunteers go the extra mile many times to support these families in all sorts of ways—from preparing apartments for their arrival, helping them advocate with landlords or employers, referring them to various social service agencies in New Haven, running summer school and camp programs, putting together international events to celebrate cultural differences, and on and on.  I’m sorry the folks featured in this article have had a hard time, but I have no doubt that there are literally hundreds of other refugees, many of whom I’ve met and worked with, who would credit IRIS with providing a caring, supportive, welcoming community at a very difficult time of transition in their lives.
Amy Eppler-Epstein

posted by: NHteacher on December 30, 2014  1:14pm

I do not doubt these men’s stories of false promises made by the US military. I do not doubt that they feel disenchanted about the elusive, mostly mythical American dream.  They were promised something that wasn’t real.  Blaming IRIS’ dedicated staff and volunteers for our military’s misdeeds is hardly appropriate, though.

As a teacher who has gotten to know many IRIS families and has worked closely with IRIS staff over the years, I can say with certainty that the IRIS community includes some of the most dedicated, selfless, make-it-work people in this city. Their staff make do with very little, and they do it with a smile. There are no martyrs there. I know one who completely ran her car into the ground driving children back and forth to after school activities, appointments, etc. And yes, she had a car seat in that car! When her car died she was unable to afford a new one on the limited salary IRIS is able to pay her. She did not complain; instead she got more familiar with the public bus system. Another IRIS staff member selflessly welcomed two children into her own home for weeks while their single mother was in the hospital. These are most definitely the “good guys”, doing their best to pick up the pieces of our country’s misguided exploits abroad.

The task of resettlement is huge—besides employment, housing, schooling, and medical needs, most families that come here are also suffering from PTSD. Their most recent address was a refugee camp. In no way do I mean to dismiss the struggles of the men in this article, but they are—honestly—the least needy of IRIS’ clients. They are single, able-bodied, English-speaking, and educated. One even considers returning to his native country an option. That would be unthinkable for most IRIS clients. It makes sense that IRIS would spend more of its resources on the family groups, especially the ones headed by single mothers who do not yet speak English. They are truly struggling just to survive.

posted by: Joanne SYI on December 30, 2014  2:05pm

Donations from individuals is the one of the only ways to make transitions better for refugee families and individuals.  What could you use less of in 2015?  Donate the value of THAT to IRIS today if you think they should receive more support.  http://irisct.org/donate.html

posted by: cp06 on December 30, 2014  3:23pm

Having volunteered and worked with IRIS numerous times over about 10 years, I find it very hard to believe that any employee would even think, let alone say, something like “Aren’t you grateful.” It is quite the opposite at IRIS. They truly care and do so, so much with very little.

Something doesn’t sound right here or maybe the entire story wasn’t reported.

And I am curious as to why the complaints are limited to Afghan refugees. Is this solely due to promises made to them from the military?

posted by: Bradley on December 30, 2014  6:03pm

A.T., a clarification. As the article notes, IRIS served 230 new refugees this year. While the need for services is highest in the first year after a refugee arrives, IRIS continues to provide services afterwards. For example, many refugees are only able to land temporary jobs and come back for job placement assistance when the job ends.

posted by: aharper on December 31, 2014  8:13am

It may well be the case that IRIS could improve, and that individual staff may have spoken insensitively or unhelpfully to clients. All organizations have room for improvement. However, the deeper issue here is not IRIS itself. Rather it is the fact that they have to welcome and integrate refugees into an increasingly broken and unjust economic system where even full time work is no guarantee of either an adequate or stable income. It’s not surprising that some refugees blame IRIS, as it is their entryway to the system, but the real problem is not IRIS, it is America. This country is no doubt vastly superior to the refugees’ countries of origin in terms of physical security, social and political freedom, and basic standard of living, for which we should all be grateful. But the ‘American dream’ of finding a good job and working one’s way into the middle class has become a pipe dream for most, including these refugees.

posted by: Elmstreetmama on December 31, 2014  10:23am

I’ve volunteered with IRIS for several years and know several of the men & families in this article. In my observations, IRIS does an incredible job serving its clients. The staff regularly go above and beyond, working far beyond their paid hours and job descriptions, to help clients in a million ways. I think part of the issue is establishing clear expectations - and the clients, newly arrived, exhausted, and overwhelmed, probably to some degree hear what they want to hear. They also (understandably) seek out others from their country or culture and share stories of what happens here and there in other cities, states & countries. Sometimes, the stories are exaggerated. Other times, folks feel a cultural sense of shame if they admit how hard and humbling starting a new life in America can be. IRIS could probably do more (maybe sharing personal stories by staff who have worked “menial” jobs at some point prior to having their “respectable” office jobs at IRIS) to help clients adjust their expectations upon arrival. But blaming IRIS is not the right approach.

posted by: pauldhammer on December 31, 2014  12:46pm

As former Housing & Donations Coordinator at IRIS, and having worked in the nonprofit sector for most of my life, I can say that I have never worked in an environment where criticism from colleagues and clients was uniformly welcomed as a means of improving procedures and outcomes.  I know I made my share of mistakes (as in using bedbug infested mattresses that had been donated).  and we learned from them as a team.  IRIS can use more money and more volunteers, but in my view the organization is doing amazing things with limited resources…enrolling kids in school and providing them with enrichment programs, teaching English, finding housing and setting up apartments, communicating with landlords on clients’ behalf, soliciting and storing donations, finding entry level jobs for clients and discussing prospects for advancement and further education, recruiting, training and supervising volunteers and interns. scheduling doctor’s visits, and arranging for transportation for important appointments. For every mistake and missed opportunity there are many accomplishments to be proud of. Knowing my former colleagues, I believe that the New Year will usher in better communication, perhaps in the form of a Client Advisory Board that has been in under discussion. When facing criticism, it is important to distinguish between what is true and what is not, and what may constitute seeds of truth embedded in broad statements that may not be true.  Accepting and acting on what are clearly true statements of fact and working through all the rest with critics to sort through what can be acted upon is surely in order. I know that IRIS will rise to the occasion.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on December 31, 2014  1:09pm

I have yet to read all the comments but from what I have read I do agree with some. First I think many in other country’s think America is a rich place.  It is for about 20% of the people that live here. http://goo.gl/2XvQZW  The rest are living pay check to paycheck or on even less. And many of us had to start at the bottom. Mc D’s ect. And many of us would (in these hard times love a job at McD’s) And because CT has a major job shortage for the average person you cannot expect to come here and find a great paying job in a few months. Your lucky if you got a job. 1000’s of CT people look every day.

Remember when that pizza place opened in the summer?? A line of 200 new havener’s all looking for the few jobs they had!! It is unrealistic to believe the propaganda they say about this country. I think that before they leave their country there should be someone explaining to them the hardship the average American is living in right now and make them aware that is what they should expect when getting here.
And I understand they have done good for this country by helping them. So have all the vets that come home and have no job, home, or help. Welcome to the real America.


Also back in the day. people needed to have a sponsor family to come here.  Then you could come here. Many church people would be sponsor family’s.  No government funds were given. The person got a bed and a few meals a day and some guidance to be on their own.

I am grateful for all that IRIS does with so little!
And guys I am so sorry that it is not what you expected. But right now you have more than some do in this country.
Serious question is there a way for them to go home if they want?? If it is so much worse than were they came from, we should at least offer them a way back a better life. It is only fair if they dislike it here so much.

George we know how much you do.

posted by: pauldhammer on December 31, 2014  3:47pm

In my previous post I forgot to give a “shout out” to IRIS’ Case Management staff who provide social services in a broad array of areas, helping clients get the financial, logistical and emotional support they need, and to the Immigration Legal Services Dept., which sees clients along the path to citizenship and works to reunite families among other services.

I think that providing a realistic picture of life in the U.S. to refugees who may have a choice to go elsewhere or are waiting to come to this country would help in acclimating refugees once they arrive. Of course, life is not going to be the same for everyone, but it is important to raise hopes with practical information while moderating expectations.

For instance must be stressed that education, and vocational education in particular, is the key ladder to advancement
for most people in this country.

Mastering English is a critical skill on the job, in school and on the street. If possible, refugees, who often have to wait long periods in camps and transfer stations before coming here, should be offered English classes with a view towards being able to speak proficiently when they set foot on American soil.

posted by: Freethinker1234 on January 1, 2015  3:06pm

For many many years, IRIS has not been held accountable for its’ actions.I personally have watched many families move into the area and dumped in apartments with little to no furniture, advice, and disgusting living conditions. There is an incredible amount of money wasted at IRIS through lack of accountability and truly illegal practices.Their day care center is unlicensed and they have been infested with roaches and other vermin. Their English teacher is an uneducated tyrant!!THese refugees come into New Haven under the belief that they will be provided with decent housing, food, clothing..A welcoming meal prepared by their fellow countrymen and education on what it means to live in a culture foreign to what they know.I remember a family newly arrived, starting a fire in their home because they had no idea how to turn the heat on and their children were freezing!TO SAY THEY R GIVEN CLASSES ON HOW TO LIVE IN THE U.S.IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE!!THere is something terribly, disgustingly wrong with this org. Mountains of clothing,furniture and goods have been donated to IRIS over the years.Most of these items have been stored in somewhere around 10 storage units,a great deal of it has been left to rot!!This resettlement is NOT done out of the goodness of our hearts. It is done as a means of paying our debts to individuals who have put their lives on the line for the benefit of the U.S.!!THey werent lied to by the military!THese ppl.arent idiots,give them some credit!!Chris George has started to believe his own press!Where is the Brd. of Directors in all this?? Isn’t there some sort of federal agency that can force IRIS to be accountable?Clearly it cannot be internal.This is criminal what is happening to these people!!One of the things George does best is blame the refugee. One of the things he does worst is accept responsibility!1 Family I became very close to ended up evicted and living in a shelter until DSS came and got them placed!THeir life was HELL!BTW, I have pictures!