Sunday, January 27, 2008

No easy answers

Nearly 10% of people in our county (Franklin) speak a language other than English at home. We have an estimated 45,000 Somali refugees along with refugees from many other countries. Add to that the number of immigrants who are of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and it's a huge challenge for public services. 

But let's look just at refugee services right now. When a refugee comes, he (or she) gets at least eight months of cash benefits, along with whatever the resettlement agency has provided. Cash benefits are usually barely enough to pay rent on an apartment in a terrible neighborhood -- and then what about food, clothes, transportation, medicine ... and English lessons? 

If the refugee is part of a family, there are three years of cash benefits. But for a single person -- eight months. 

Eight months to adjust to a new world and begin building a new life. 
Eight months to try to put the mental, physical and emotional trauma of the past behind one and move toward the future. 
Eight months to learn the language and culture (and sometimes the literacy) skills needed to get a job that barely covers more than rent and some food. 

I don't pretend to know the answer. I just see people who have been brought here by the government and then lost in a system they can't comprehend. It doesn't seem like a good way to help fix broken people.