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Refugees Find No Refuge On Nash Street
by Thomas MacMillan | Jan 23, 2012 12:47 pm
Posted to: Housing, Immigrants, East Rock
When kids living in a Nash Street house kept showing up at the hospital with respiratory problems, city housing inspector Rafael Ramos went to their home and found black mold covering the bedroom walls of an apartment holding 11 Congolese refugees.
Ramos condemned 17 Nash St.‘s first floor on Dec. 22. The family has since been living in a hotel—at the Nash Street landlord’s expense—until they can find another place to live.
This month, Ramos returned and condemned the second floor, removing two other refugees who were living there, after pipes burst on the third floor.
“In the seven years I’ve been doing this, this has been our most serious problem,” said Chris George, the head of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). That organization helped settle the Congolese family in New Haven when it first arrived more than two years ago.
IRIS did not and would not have placed the family in the 17 Nash St. home, and tried to help the family deal with problems there even though the refugees had already graduated from IRIS’s settlement program, George said.
Now IRIS is reconsidering some of its policies, looking to see if the period of supervision of new refugees should be extended to ensure the safety and success of settlements. And the city is looking to work more closely with IRIS to see that other newcomers to the United States don’t end up in similar straits.
The property slipped through the cracks of the city’s Residential Licensing Program. That program is designed to ensure that the city safeguards the living conditions of all renters, even if—like some new immigrants—they don’t speak English well or otherwise aren’t equipped to complain about their situation.
The Residential Licensing Program requires that most non-owner occupied rental properties be inspected every two years. But 17 Nash St. was incorrectly listed on the city tax rolls as an owner-occupied property and thus avoided regular inspection.
Ramos said proposed changes to the program—now in front of the Board of Aldermen—would help to prevent that kind of oversight.
Landlords Helen and Kojo Gyamfi could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, 17 Nash St. remains boarded up, with a city lien in place to cover the cost of housing the family of 11 at a local motel. After the family left on Dec. 22, water pipes on the third floor burst and the city removed two men living on the second floor.
The family arrived from Congo “at least two years ago,” said George. “We placed them in a very nice four-bedroom on Nash initially, and then their second placement was another three-bedroom on Nash.”
The family later moved on their own to 17 Nash St., where they were paying very low rent, George said. “They went there and we had less contact with them.”
“The majority of our assistance is in the first few months or year, and then it starts to drop off,” George said. IRIS finds homes in New Haven each year for about 150 refugees, who can move where they choose after their initial settlement, he said.
“We can’t control what a family does on their own, especially when the whole point is to help people become self-sufficient,” he said.
The family chose to move to an apartment that IRIS would never have placed refugees in, George said. “We were not placing anyone in Helen (Gyamfi)‘s apartments,” he said. “IRIS’ policy is to put people where the landlords are responsive and the apartments are safe and clean. Helen and her apartments did not meet those standards.”
According to a neighbor, who asked not to be named, 17 Nash St. has been “spiraling down” for while. (Click here to read a story about mice infesting the property.)
About nine months ago, the family of 11 moved into the first-floor apartment, and the complaints began. SeeClickFix, the community problem-solving website, has over 10 active complaints connected to 17 Nash St.
“They filled the backyard completely with junk,” the neighbor said. She said she saw sofas, chairs, upholstered furniture, toys, and bikes back there. The family was noisy at all hours of the night, and neighbors suspected prostitutes were visiting the second-floor apartment, she said. They would see women coming and going and find used condoms around, she said.
“The vast majority of refugees make great neighbors and American citizens,” George said. “But refugees are human beings and there are going to be problems. Many refugees have suffered horrendous persecution and come with serious psychological problems and the adjustment to new society and culture is difficult for them.”
George said he heard about the problems from neighbors. “I visited the family a couple of times. I met with them in the backyard to go over the problems. I never went into the house. I realize now that was a mistake.”
IRIS’ education coordinator was working with the kids in the family and a case manager also met with the family, George said. “This has been a serious problem and IRIS has devoted a lot of resources.”
Matt Smith, who was the local alderman at the time, got involved. He said there were reports of drug-dealing and prostitution at the address. He said he helped bring in the Livable City Initiative. He also spoke with IRIS head George about the house, he said.
Jessica Holmes, the ward’s current alderwoman, also lives on Nash Street. She said she’s also been working with LCI to address neighborhood complaints about the property. This week she said she helped make sure the windows on the house’s first floor were all boarded up properly.
LCI’s Ramos paid a visit in November. He found that the family was doing laundry in the backyard and hanging clothes on neighbors’ fences. He was able to get them to clean up the backyard.
Inside, he visited the kitchen and living room, but the family wouldn’t allow him into bedrooms. He cited the landlord for a number of violations, including backyard maintenance, window repairs needed, chipped and peeling paint, and a problem with the kitchen ceiling.
Then on Dec. 22, Ramos got a call from a medical anthropologist working at the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, who said he had visited 17 Nash St. after kids living there kept showing up at the hospital with respiratory problems.
Ramos visited the house and went into the bedrooms he hadn’t visited earlier. He took pictures of what he found there: Black mold covering the walls, right next to beds where children slept.
Somehow moisture was entering the home through the walls, seeping in and warming up, making it an ideal environment for mold growth. Airborne mold spores were then making the children sick. Ramos immediately condemned the first floor and LCI found the family a place to stay in a hotel.
LCI returned earlier this month after pipes burst in the third floor. The furnace apparently broke, lowering temperatures and bursting pipes, Ramos said. LCI removed two single men—also refugees—living on the second floor.
Ramos said LCI has previously cited the Gyamfis for violations at other properties. He said what happened at 17 Nash St. is a perfect example of why the residential licensing program is important. “This family didn’t know that they could complain without retribution. They didn’t know we have ordinances in place to protect their health and safety.”
“The lesson for us is some families need much more and longer term assistance with adjustment and we are going to have to find ways to increase our resources so that we can provide them,” George said.
IRIS will not be changing its policy of settling refugee families in scattered sites in East Rock, George said. “We still believe that the best way to do refugee resettlement in New Haven is to spread our families around and put them in welcoming neighborhoods and not cluster them in small areas and create refugee ghettoes.”
In the wake of what happened at Nash Street, LCI is looking to work more closely with IRIS, said LCI head Erik Johnson.
LCI has not had problems with IRIS previously, and has not had a “formal relationship” with the organization. “The goal is to have one so that we don’t have situations like this.”
LCI would be willing to inspect properties in advance of refugee placement, Johnson said.
“That’s a great idea,” said George. “But again, that recommendation was prompted by a situation that was not the result of poor placement by IRIS.” Nevertheless, increased coordination between IRIS and LCI would be a good thing, he said.
Ramos said LCI could consult with IRIS about the history of properties and landlords the agency is considering for new arrivals. “I think that would help us all out,” he said. “Rather than going after the fact.”
George said IRIS, LCI, and the Department of Children and Families are now working together to find a safe new home for the family of 11.
“New Haven is one of the best places in the country to settle refugees,” George said. “It’s really something the city can be proud of. But every now and then we have to deal with problems.”
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“George said IRIS, LCI, and the Department of Children and Families are now working together to find a safe new home for the family of 11.”
How ‘bout here…it’s PERFECT for a family of 11:
seems like a semi-competent inspection program would have found and corrected this problem. Where are those dollars going?
Kojo and Helen Gyamfi can’t be run out of town becuase they already are out of town; 10 Carle Rd in Branford to be exact. THANKS AGAIN BURBS!
“New Haven is one of the best places in the country to settle refugees,” George said
New Haven has the lowest vacancy rate of any city in the nation. We have a very high cost of living compared to other areas of the country. New Haven has a high unemployment rate, especially with regard to unskilled labor, or jobs that don’t require higher education. We also have a fairly high crime rate. How could we be one of the best places in the country to settle refugees? I think its great what IRIS does and its great that NH can welcome so many refugees. I’m just curious what the factors are that make NH one of the best places. It seems like places with high housing stock and/or low unemployment and low crime rates would be the most ideal.
2Unique, I think $5000 per month is out of reach for this family.
I don’r know, anon, but not soon enough.
I think the world of Chris George and IRIS. I also think well of LCI’s Eric Johnson.
“was incorrectly listed on the city tax rolls as an owner-occupied property and thus avoided regular inspection.”
Another secretary “accidently” write the wrong thing down again? http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/fbi_probe_spreads_to_city_hall/
**“The lesson for us is some families need much more and longer term assistance with adjustment and we are going to have to find ways to increase our resources so that we can provide them,” George said.**
Why isn’t the lesson to fix the inspection system, and inspect rental properties MORE often instead of the proposed longer term between inspections?
Slum lords should be punished to the maximum of the law including stiff penalties and/or jail time. If there is no jail time some should be written into law. In addition, (my assumption) is that the tenants may have not paid for their medical visits and that cost should be added to the landlors fine. Why should we all pay for someones elses greed? Hurt them where it hurts to stop this insanity. This is why we need to maintain inspections on rental properties despite the flaws. Landlords (not everyone)will do anything for a dollar even risk the lives of children.
posted by: streever on January 23, 2012 2:56pm
Bad landlords need to go. I’m glad to see the neighborhood working together to promote a safe community for all—refugees, long-term residents, short-term residents.
No one should have to live in a house with these problems, and by calling attention to it, they have helped the refugees into a much better place to live—at least for the short-term.
First question: Why did these people move 3 times in 2 years?
I was on the call for this apartment and also being a landlord in the city of New Haven I was disgusted to see how these men were living. The temperature in the second floor apartment was 41 Degrees and there was no heat. Bravo to Mr Ramos for condemning this apartment. This was something as a landlord is unacceptable. I wish these me well and hope they land on their feet with a nice roof over their heads. To take advantage of people like this is simply criminal .
posted by: streever on January 23, 2012 3:30pm
I have a theory to answer your question, and then two questions of my own.
I’d imagine that—as refugees—they came here with economic problems. They had to flee their home country. They probably have a hard time finding a job in one of the toughest economies that our country has ever faced, too! I imagine that they are forced to move by the unhappy economic situation they find themselves in, as a result of the persecution they faced which qualified them for the refugee status they immigrated here with.
Why do you wonder?
What is your second question?
Why did they let the mold grow like that? A sponge with a little water and Clorox would clean that right up.
There’s an awful lot of “slipped through the cracks” in a lot of different agencies in New Haven. It is not good enough for our residents, our children; it is not good enough for any of us!
To Unreal: ... this is a toxic/black mold problem, not the almost harmless type of mold that grows in your fridge. It is not easily fixed, and it can easily spread and cause serious health problems if not professionally contained.
Tim, about 25% of city residents moved within the past year. So it wouldn’t be very unusual if someone moved 3 times in 2 years.
Curious, I couldn’t agree with you more! I too want refugees to get the best possible placement to start over and wonder how New Haven meets that criteria. I work for a local nonprofit and know how limited the resources are. Unless the refugees already have ties here, wouldn’t another city have more to offer? This isn’t a criticism Iris- they do amazing work with very little.
Wishing the best for this family!
To eloquently represent what some haters have probably tried to cram through the Comment Filter:
Is it possible that this family of eleven people trashed the place?
What’s the story with the used condoms and prostitution accusations? Who put the living room furniture in the back yard?
Oh, and can I effectively report my old Cottage Street landlord now? His property is nearing this level of toxicity.
LCI has never inspected the number of units it said it would and if it gets the fee increases it is seeking from the Board of Aldermen, it will NOT increase the number of inspections Eric Johnson admitted before the Legislative Committee he appeared before recently.
A strong, complaint driven program will target the offenders and direct resources to where they are needed.
How can a short 20 minute “inspection” really turn up more than some superficial problems? It can’t. And if LCI can’t even reach all the units in a 2 year period, what is the rationale for increasing fees?
It looks like revenue increase disguised as “covering expenses”.
The Building Dept. used to do inspections for free.
Why are owners charged now?????
Rafael has done a tremendous job over the years enforcing codes and helping those in trouble. He should receive more recognition for his great work!
I watched NHPD and LCI do a great job at 17 Nash Street; they came more than 100 times and made 10 arrests- mostly I think , of the men on the 2nd floor.
Mr. Ramos and Lt. Reddish were especially sensitive, effective and even-handed in working with all of the parties involved: they are obvious very committed. Huge kudos & lots of respect to them.
LCI & NHPDT gave the people on the first floor, from the Congo many chances and as you can see from FF Sal Consiglio’s remarks they showed compassion for the 2 men (out of the original 4-6 men) who continued to come into the 2nd floor even after it was condemned.
(BTW some of the 2nd floor tenants seemed to be very decent despite the fact that their housemates appeared to engage in a variety of illegal activities.)
Thank you to Mr. Ramos, Reddish, Paszak and all of your team.
To: Tim Wrightington and Streever
I would like to give another “theory” to Tim’s first queation as to “Why did these people move 3 times in 2 years?” I would imagine these tenants were asked to leave their prior East Rock residences due to behavior similar to what you, Streever reported in your SeeClickFix post to “Unfit for Occupancy Notice Removed” on December 8, 2011 where you write:
“... I was actually threatened by people hanging out at this house over the summer… and then repeated his warning that I should “act smart” and get off that street before there were “problems”... “
you also write
“... Two friends of mine who lives on this street later told me that they had some serious run-ins with the occupants of that house… “
To give a theory to Streever’s question to Tim, “Why do you wonder?”; Perhaps it is because no one seems to want to admit the tenants had alot to do with this downward spiral as well. The owners of this property may very well be the slumlords people are saying. However, I am quite sure they did not drive from Branford each time to:
- Place decaying food in the yard.
(SeeClickFix “Decaying food, broken windows, glass, tires, etc”)
- Dump harmful detergents and chemicals into the soil.
(SeeClickFix “Contaminating soil”)
- Become argumentative when asked to be quiet at 12:45.
(SeeClickFix “Noisy Neighbors at it Again”)
- Require police action to the address twice in one night.
(SeeClickFix “Once again there were problems at 17 Nash Street, this time with the 2 families that live on the 1st Flr”)
- Require police action “again”.
(SeeClickFix “Noise/fighting at 17 Nash Street”).
Did anyone check to see if these folks were in the USA legally?????
To: Tim Wrightington and Streever
To give another “theory” to Tim’s first question as to “Why did these people move 3 times in 2 years?” I would imagine they were asked to leave their previous East Rock residences due to behavior similar to what you, Streever reported in your SeelickFix post to “Unfit for Occupancy Notice Removed on December 8, 2011 http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/149312-unfit-for-occupancy-notice-removed where you write
“... I was actually threatened by people hanging out at this house over the summer… and then repeated his warning that I should “act smart” and get off that street before there were “problems… “
you also write
“... Two friends of mine who lives on this street later told me that they had some serious run-ins with the occupants of that house…”
To give a theory to Streever’s question to tim “Why do you wonder?”; Perhaps it is because no one seems to want to admit the tenants had alot to do with this downward spiral as well. The owners of this property may be the slumlords people are saying. However, I am quite sure they did not drive from Branford each time to:
- Put decaying food in the yard.
(SeeClickFix “Decaying food, broken windows, glass, tires, etc”)http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/139411-decaying-food-broken-windows-glass-tires-etc
- Dump harmful detergents and chemicals into the soil.
(SeeClickFix “Contaminated soil”) http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/139411-decaying-food-broken-windows-glass-tires-etc
- Become argumentative when asked to be quiet at 12:45.
(SeeClickFix “Noisy Neighbors at it Again”)http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/120382-noisy-neighbors-at-it-again
- Require police action to the address twice in one night.
(SeeClickFix “Once again there were problems at 17 Nash Street, this time with the 2 families that live on the 1st Flr”) http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/126387-once-again-there-were-problems-at-17-nash-street-this-time-with-the-2-families-that-live-on-the-1st-flr
- Require police action “again”.
(SeeClickFix “Noise/fighting at 17 Nash Street”)http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/128464-noise-fighting-at-17-nash-street
Thanks “Needed to be said”. That’s the answer I thought I’d get.
My Great Grandparents came to America from Italy through Ellis Island. They lived on Rosette St. for many, many years. They respected the property they lived in and most of all they respected America. It was a privilege to live here.
Question number 2: Why aren’t they deported for their activities!
ngh, they are refuges, so they were thoroughly vetted and documented by the federal government, albeit by the State Department which does have a commitment to mediocrity.
Well said, robn. In Connecticut, the cities are the colonies of the ‘burbs, to be exploited and dumped into.
Curious, the employment challenges you mentioned are certainly true, but New Haven does have many advantages for settling refuges. The city is very walkable and has mass transit. There are neighborhoods that are fairly safe, and IRIS (unlike some other groups) goes to great lengths to settle people in those areas. Also, our city is already very diverse.
Well argued and researched, NeededToBeSaid. This family clearly is an exception that proves the rule. Most refugees make a wonderful addition to our country, and I opine that it is our sacred duty to help, especially since America as World Police has done so much to destabilize the world and we have been given so much. That said, some people cannot “Americanize” well. I think of people from China that continue to set their trash out in a plastic bag by their door, to be taken to a dumpster or trash can in the morning because that is how it is done in China.
It is a sad truth, there is one thing nearly any woman can sell if she is sufficiently desperate.
I wish LCI were more aggressive. I am sure IRIS will learn from this experience, and do a better job in the future. Maybe we can all learn from this too.
In response to “curious” who asks why I say New Haven is one of the best places to resettle refugees in light of the high cost of living, scarcity of housing, high unemployment, and relatively high crime rate. All of the factors mentioned are important, and we struggle to find affordable apartments and jobs. But refugees also need to feel welcomed. This is a diverse and hospitable city. They need friends and volunteers to help them. We are fortunate to have hundreds of volunteers from universities, congregations, civic groups, and schools pitch in to help refugees. Refugees need to feel respected. New Haven is just big enough to have the services new Americans need, but not too big to intimidate them.
I’ve observed this building and #28 and #30 which are owned by the same slumlord for years. At first, clean, decent refugees who were devoted to their children and who now contribute to our community lived in Helen and Koko’s houses. When the refugees made reasonable requests to remedy thing such as; clean up the vomit from an aggressive and occasionally violent substance abusing man from the Sudan, fix a leaky roof, remove infestations of vermin, stopped up drains, etc the decent refugees were repeatedly and rudely brushed off both by the slumlord and by IRIS. No wonder these good neighbors moved along.
I can only echo the praise that others are voicing for LCI and NHPD. We are fortunate to have them.
Over time the quality of tenants continued to deteriorate and so did the buildings. To make matters worse, when#30 was foreclosed on, the slumlord moved the Sudanese man from their house at 30 Nash to 17 Nash and now, maybe to 28 Nash. Finally 11 people some of who were suffering from PTSD were crowded into the first floor and 4-8 unmarried men, some decent, some seeming to be criminals were living on the 2nd floor.
IRIS’s behavior was only a bit more civic minded or effective than the slumlord’s. Based on what I saw I went from being very much for IRIS to questioning what is really happening with the leadership of IRIS.
In sum, the slumlord was by far the chief offender, the tenants were desperate but less than blameless and although IRIS seems like a good idea that is missing its mark.
posted by: streever on January 24, 2012 10:59am
It also “needs to be said” that this was a three family house with squatters (i.e. illegal tenants). The person who threatened me claimed not to live there, and was most likely a squatter.
The people who I had a nasty run in with where absolutely not the refugees with children who became ill and moved 3 times. I’m not sure why you are smearing them, along with the bad behavior of someone else who lived here.
There is a pretty clear bias in these comments—a need to blame or attack immigrants. Witness, the comment of, “are they illegal”. No, by definition, they are not—they are “refugees”.
I am glad that my country wasn’t this xenophobic, racist, and hateful when my ancestors came here fleeing the war in Europe.
Shame works. A generous soul would print this article out, and plaster it in the Branford neighborhood where these landlords live. They would also drop it in local mailboxes with a note.
Italians coming here then were likely not subject to the same trauma that refugees coming from the Congo today are. Congo is suffering from a horrendous, drawn out war, with extreme violence, unbelievable poverty, and terrible health conditions, such that most of the millions that have died have died from disease. Part of the problem is Congo’s enormous resource wealth; foreign powers, including the US among others, are more interested in securing access to that wealth than in preventing suffering. We should also be deeply ashamed of our historical role in the death of the popular leader Lumumba and the rise of the dictator Mobutu. The trauma that these refugees may have experienced may well at least partly explain their inability to ‘make it work’ in this country. In addition, they may have experienced some hostility in the US. It can be a dispiriting experience to be a poor black person in a relatively wealthy neighborhood like East rock, given the racist stereotypes that persist even among the so-called liberal elite. It doesn’t mean that we just smile and say it’s okay when we see the type of behavior exhibited, but at the very least we should try to understand where it might be coming from
The medical costs the state has to pay for, to treat so many sick individuals due to mold is outrageous. Which can easily be avoided by doing regular inspections. Seems like LCI needs to do their JOB. The same applies with the housing complexes in NH.
To: Don’t Judge on January 24, 2012 8:19pm
Like the ,
Fire Department and Police Department.
LCI is there 24/7.
At your sevice:
between 9am -5pm call 203 946-7090
After hours 203 946-6237
Nash Street and Goatville in general is a great place. I’m sure residents are upset about the bad stewardship of this house (which should be brought to end asap) but I can tell you that one house isn’t gonna bring this neighborhood down because its strong.
I have not “smeared” refugees. I am identifying causes of the problem in an area which has been for years, a very clean, diverse and pleasant neighborhood to live with very little need for police presence. My response would be the same for any individuals that were being identified as the reason these things have changed, be they illegal, legal or U.S. citizens. I don’t think giving more credibility to the multiple posts written by the neighbors who live on Nash Street year round can be construed as “xenophobic, racist and hateful”.
These SeeClickFix posts were written by them.
“... Once again there were problems at 17 Nash Street, this time with the 2 families that live on the 1st floor. Police were present around 10:30 and again at 12:30… “
- posted by a Nash Street neighbor http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/126387-once-again-there-were-problems-at-17-nash-street-this-time-with-the-2-families-that-live-on-the-1st-flr
“... About nine months ago, the family of 11 moved into the first-floor apartment, and the complaints began… “
“... The police are here again. 3 Africans from IRIS gathered on the porch, shouting. This is not a matter of people who need a little help. These people have failed to adjust, they have been there many months.”
-posted by a Nash Street neighbor http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/128464-noise-fighting-at-17-nash-street
“... This whole situation is really unfortunate. From what I’ve been told, there are 2 houses on Nash St. that house families and/or individuals placed by IRIS. The people are from different countries and/or regions of Africa and are feuding over cultural differences. I know IRIS is trying to help by placing these folks in apartments, but something is not working… “
- posted by a Nash Street neighbor http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/128464-noise-fighting-at-17-nash-street
I think it is reasonable to accept the truthfulness of posts written by people who actually reside on Nash Street without being labeled a “racist”. People on all sides are trying to deal with this issue. Such accusations of hatred, racism and xenophobia carelessly thrown around during a disagreement makes people shy away from the discussion and stay silent rather than contribute information. It also lessens the chances of justice being served when true cases of racism arise.
posted by: streever on January 27, 2012 10:17am
I’ve never labelled the SCF posters “racists” or “xenophobes”. The behavior which I directly call out is Tim’s. Perhaps you missed his follow-up comment, in which he states that he assumed that the family was bad, and then compares them to his italian ancestors and says that his italian ancestors came here the right way, were good people, and asks why we can’t deport the refugees.
Wanting to deport a family of 11—with small-children—to the violence they’ve escaped because of complaints about 3 men who aren’t part of that family seems more than ridiculous to me.
The SCF posts you reference make it clear that there are 3 men who are squatters living in the house. Perhaps the 3 men I encountered were the squatters, and not the refugees?
This is what makes the whole discussion xenophobic—Tim assumed that the 3 squatters I interacted with where the family.
I didn’t even feel the need to say this, but it “needs” to be said now—the 3 men I interacted with WERE NOT immigrants. They were American as apple pie. Like I said, I don’t know who they are, or what they were doing there, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that they were unrelated to the family of 11 refugees, and probably more likely to be the squatters you mention.
As I said on SCF:
This is not an issue about refugees or immigration.
It is an issue about a slum lord—a terrible landlord who knowingly lets humans live in sub-humane conditions.
Could the family of 11 do more? Perhaps—but they may also be experiencing severe trauma due to the circumstances that led to them fleeing their home land.
There is a real issue here that needs to be addressed, and I don’t think that Tim’s subtle suggestions are appropriate or helpful. In what way does Tim’s comment help the neighborhood or move the street forward to a safer place?
He is merely expressing a certain xenophobic sentiment, that some immigrants (his ancestors) are good, and some are bad.
I don’t get why you are defending him. I haven’t attacked or criticized the SCF posts (in fact I defended them) but Tim’s comment on this site is certainly inappropriate.
I not only support Nash street on this issue, I’ve even helped residents of Nash street do outreach to see this issue ameliorated. However, that doesn’t mean that I think Tim is making appropriate remarks—he is not.
Please, re-read his comments, and ask yourself if you really agree with him. He has never met the family of 11—he doesn’t know who they are—he doesn’t know anything but what he inferred from reading a few comments on a web site. Why defend him?
To my knowledge the squatters were a recent addition to the existing problems at 17 Nash Street. I would like to thank alder Katie Holmes for addressing that problem and taking immediate action to solve that issue by making sure the windows and doors remained boarded up by LCI and keeping her residents updated on the situation (action within 2 days seemed pretty good to me) . Hopefully that has been solved since the problem was reported, recognized and appropriate action taken. http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/149312-unfit-for-occupancy-notice-removed
Also upon the clarification of your experience of being threatened, I have not mentioned it further. However all the examples included in my last post written by Nash Street neighbors specifically identify the cause of the problems reported as IRIS clients or graduates. According to the many posted descriptions of 17 Nash Street, of the three floors, the first and second floors have been inhabited by current or former IRIS clients for months. The three examples I posted were directly linked to the tenants on the “first” floor. Prostitute activity was suspected by the tenants on the “second” floor. The blight of junk in the backyard and clothes hanging in the backyard was going on for over four months in spite of calls being made to IRIS and talking to the tenants. http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/96322-contaminating-soil My thanks goes out to housing inspector Rafael Ramos for putting an end to that activity.
I did not consider my response to Tim a defense but another answer to his question. People should be able to ask questions without the immediate insinuation of being a racist. I personally did not perceive his comparison of his immigrant ancestors anymore insulting or wrong than the comparison you gave of your own ancestors. I will admit that the situation of the Congolese in their native country is worse due to the killings in addition to the poverty. However I do feel the IRIS clients mentioned in the above problems have squandered the opportunities given to them upon their arrival here. There have been many ethnic groups that have come to this country having to overcome the difficult challenges of different appearance and language. Very few though had the advantages of having free placement, rent, food, furniture, medical care, education and legal representation for upwards of six months as did these clients. Where were the two previous Nash Street addresses IRIS placed this family and why did they move? I was told one of the locations was 55 Nash Street and they were asked to leave due to disruptive activity and behavior.
... The IRIS tenants on the first and second floor had quite a bit to do with this “downward spiral” as well as the irresponsible landlord and the addition of squatters. I have no desire to see the children who have no control of this situation to suffer and I hope DCYS will be able to help. But there is no doubt there are some very blatant, harmful and serious flaws in the IRIS program. Obviously the background checks have been unable to filter out clients with a tendency towards criminal behavior or possible dangerous psychological conditions. I see how unbelievably difficult it could be to do a thorough background check in an underdeveloped country with areas of no electricity much less any type of municipal database. However, the residents of the area have reason to be cautious/concerned about future IRIS clients after these experiences.
Where does this leave the people of Nash Street, Goatville and East Rock when these gambles turn out wrong? Granted the example of 17 Nash Street is complicated by the fact the owners appear to have been slumlords, but what if that was a regular property owner? Does anyone know if the lease (if one existed) said eleven people? What if it was for four and an additional five arrive? The loss of income due to the time and costs of legal procedures and damage to the area would be staggering to a landlord that is just making ends meet. As you brought up, IRIS cannot send anyone back. So what recourse would you have if you took this chance and lost? There lies the crux of the problem with the IRIS program in East Rock.
posted by: streever on January 27, 2012 2:40pm
I think you misunderstood my comments—the tone of Tim’s comment is certainly an assumptive and biased one. I understand you don’t share his perspective, but his comment is loaded with bias and assumptions which aren’t validated by this article.
I’m just uncomfortable with labeling the family of eleven with such a broad brush.
Where does this leave the neighborhood? So far, it seems to leave the neighborhood stronger than ever—it sounds like neighbors have really rallied around this cause and gotten involved & organized, which is great!
I just think that the productive work the neighborhood is doing—and even the productive conversations about IRIS, refugees, resettlement, etc taking place—are hurt by comments like Tim’s, which makes assumptions about the legal status of the refugees and their personal behavior.
Even someone like myself gets distracted by biased commentary like his, although I am very sympathetic to the problems being faced on Nash Street, and am happy with what the neighborhood has done to improve the situation.
I just don’t think that—after the fact—we need to go after the family on a personal level, but that is what Tim is doing, and why I criticized him.
I’m sorry if you felt criticized, because that wasn’t my intention. I was directly questioning Tim.
Ultimately, we need to promote systems that will prevent problems like these from happening. I think we can do that—and have real conversations about the quality and consistency of IRIS outreach—without personally attacking the family.
agreeing with you streever… but as you use the word ‘ultimately’, perhaps we should realise that ‘ultimately’ we need to look beyond Nash street, beyond New Haven, and indeed beyond the US, and realise that as US citizens, voters and consumers we have a degree of responsibility for our nation’s foreign policy, which tragically plays a part in creating conditions such as in the Congo all over the world. It is wonderful to welcome refugees and to do what we can to bring their lives back to a semblance of normality, but how more wonderful it would be to try to reduce the need for refugees to come here in the first place. I know some might react to this negatively, ‘oh typical blaming the US for the world’s problems’, but the fact remains that as citizens of the world’s most powerful and globally ACTIVE nation, we MUST seek to educate ourselves about foreign policy mistakes made in the past and the present, so that they will no longer be made in the future.
TIM WRIGHTINGTON, as a 16th generation American WASP, I find it easy to think that “The Sopranos” is a documentary. Shall we cater to my prejudices, and ban all Irish and Italian immigrants since they are Papists, terrorists and gangsters?
Returning refuges is at best a life time in a refuge camp, and at worse, a death sentence. Is that a measured response?
Well said, aharpe. Unfortunately, in-spite of our global presence, our sense of history and word view is very local. In my world travels, I have learned that we are most admired for our freedom and liberties, and the opportunities our country offers. I opine the best world play for our country is to be that beacon of freedom. Unfortunately our political leaders are doing their very best to knock that on the head.
Hhe: No support systems in 1917, my Great Grandparents made out just fine!
Streever, I don’t believe my comments were either racial or xenophobic. I never said my Great Grandparents were “good” (even though they were). I said they knew it was a privilege to be in this country. My opinions are based on the pictures of the filth in the backyard and the see click fix reports.
Don’t try to scare me off with the race card. My minority friends will tell you it doesn’t fly.
TIM WRIGHTINGTON, I kind of doubt they had no support system. Support systems pre New Deal were based upon Church, civic groups, and professional/trade organizations. The Knights of Columbus are an example of such a group that exists to this day.
I am thinking that as they arrived off the boat, they would have been greeted in Italian by someone that would have helped find them a place to live and a job. The Italian American communities in cities like New Haven would have made living here comparatively easy.
Unless they were originally from the the war ravaged North, they would be coming from a country that was poor, and not very stable politically, but nothing like the Congo with endemic civil war, famine, and all that.
That one family of refuges fell through the cracks, speaks volumes for IRIS. Think of how many families they have help settle here, and after about a half a year of support, these families are expected to be standing on their own two feet.
If these refugees are a gamble, then IRIS must be The House, because the odds are about 499 to 1.