Resettlement Organizations prep for Ukrainians

April 1, 2022

Refugee resettlement organizations prep for arrival of Ukrainians in Massachusetts

April 1, 2022 By AMY SOKOLOW Boston Herald

Refugee resettlement organizations across the state have begun preparations for welcoming some of the 100,000 Ukrainian refugees coming to the U.S., and some have already begun receiving inquiries.

The state has not yet received requests from the Biden administration related to Ukrainian refugees, so it’s unclear how many will be directed to Massachusetts, a sentiment echoed by several refugee organizations statewide.

Many of those coming to the States have family ties here. States like Pennsylvania have a larger Ukrainian population and will likely absorb large numbers of refugees, but there’s a sizable Ukrainian population in Massachusetts, too — especially in the West Springfield area, where over 10,000 Ukrainians live.

The West Springfield office of Ascentria Care Alliance says it has helped five Ukrainian families begin their acclimation to Massachusetts, all of whom walked into the organization’s office.

Caroline Davis, the program manager at the office, said these families had existing ties to Massachusetts. These families are classified as “humanitarian parolees,” which doesn’t grant them federal or state eligibility for services. Still, Ascentria is doing its best to help by providing food, rental assistance, employment assistance and English language classes.

Many of these families also had to relinquish their passports at the Ukrainian border, so many are arriving in the States without the identification necessary to find work. Ascentria’s legal services team is working to assist clients with obtaining Social Security applications.

“That’s one of the biggest necessities for families, especially these very large families that we’re seeing come into our office, so that they can get their feet off the ground,” she said.

Although the demand is small now, “I would anticipate seeing a higher number on a week by week basis since more people are able to get across the border,” she said.

Jeff Thielman, president and CEO of the International Institute of New England, said his organization has received about a half dozen phone inquiries into Ukrainian resettlement services.

“We have some people that are from Ukraine that are in our services, we’ve had some people reach out to us with family in Ukraine, and we actually have had some people who fled Ukraine come to our offices, and they had different legal statuses,” he said.

He said his office may have a clearer picture of how many Ukrainians may come to Massachusetts in the next month.

He noted that the Massachusetts Legislature recently approved $10 million to assist Ukrainian refugees.

“It’s kind of good, common-sense legislation,” he said. “If you’ve come to Massachusetts with no income and no credit history, and language difficulties, you’re gonna struggle to find a place to live that’s affordable.”

Davis still called for donations of furniture, spare rooms and volunteer time to assist the new arrivals, but she and Thielman both said the experience of housing hundreds of Afghan refugees last year on a tight timeline has helped them get their volunteer networks and processes in place to welcome Ukrainians.

“ We’ve done it, we know how to do it,” Thielman said. “We’re ready.”

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