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“Aiding Syrian refugees in DC?”

by Prince Of Petworth November 17, 2015 at 3:15 pm 31 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

“Dear PoPville,

Do you know whether any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees are coming to DC? If so, are there any organizations that need volunteers/support to help ease their transition? I believe we can spread peace one conversation and one person at a time. When I lived out of state I volunteered with a group that worked with new immigrants/refugees and paired me as a “buddy” with a wonderful family. It was a great experience for both of us.”

  • wdc

    The IRC has several resettlement centers in the region– Silver Spring might be the closest, but they have volunteer opportunities in DC, too. [email protected]
    The thing is, I don’t know if you get to pick and choose which refugees you get to help. Unless you have some specific background or language skills you’ll probably get whoever needs some help. Lots of refugees in DC from the Horn of Africa.

  • hannah

    Your best way to help is to contact local resettlement agencies and ask how you can be of use!

    In DC and suburban Virginia, try USCCB (http://www.usccb.org/). In suburban Maryland, try HIAS (http://www.hias.org/), ECDC (http://www.ecdcus.org/), IRC (http://www.rescue.org/), and LIRS (http://lirs.org/).

    Contact info for relevant local offices in the PDF below. http://www.wrapsnet.org/Portals/1/Affiliate%20Directory%20Posting/FY%202014%20Affiliate%20Directory/Public%20Affiliate%20Directory%208-28-15.pdf

    Additionally, a friend storified this list of suggestions, all of which are great. Nothing is toos mall to be of use. https://storify.com/AthertonKD/how-to-help-refugees-settle-in-the-united-states#publicize

    • kate

      That storify list is full of great suggestions.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure where I read it, but a media outlet noted that DC does not have an office for refugees (due to its status as a district rather than a state) and the government therefore doesn’t relocate any refugees here.

    • wdc

      Definitely not accurate. There are lots and lots of refugees in DC, although as I said above, most that I’ve met are from Ethiopia and Somalia.

      • Accountering

        How do we know these are “refugees” persay, and not just immigrants (legal or not?) Everything I have read indicates they avoid NYC, SF, and DC due to cost.

        • wdc

          Because I review their paperwork when I hire them! :)

        • clsk92

          refugees can’t really “avoid” areas because they are placed by government agencies.

          • Accountering

            The government avoids resettling them in these areas, because of cost.

    • d

      I have friends who are refugees who were resettled to the District. Definitely false.

    • hannah

      Guys? There’s a DC office in the link I shared. There are also TONS of offices in the burbs.

      • Lawyer

        I have absolutely represented refugee clients who live in the District.

  • Merci

    The International Rescue Committee has an office in Silver Spring I believe (and advocacy branch in DC). They were looking for volunteers/interns not so long ago, but I am not sure whether they still have open positions.

  • Jen

    It’s my understanding that unless there are ties to the community via family, DC, NYC and San Fran are not generally sites chosen due to the high cost of living.

    More info here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/u-s-welcome-10000-syrians-picked/

    • HaileUnlikely

      “Generally avoid” and “never do” are different. I think there is ample evidence above that it is false that refugees are literally never resettled to DC; however, it may well be the case that the government preferentially resettles refugees to places with lower cost of living.

  • Accountering

    Looks like DC doesn’t take refugees – not an ideological thing, it is simply much too expensive, and doesn’t make sense to settle them here as a result.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      That has already been proven to be false.

    • Anon

      I’m curious to know how this works. Are the refugees given cars? Seems like they wouldn’t be able to get around in other parts of the US.

      • d

        No. But typically they are resettled in population centers large enough to have some kind of a bus/transit network. Places like Omaha, Minneapolis, Des Moines…

        For a variety of reasons a very rural location would not be a good place to resettle most refugees.

        • Anon

          But people above were saying that a lot of refugees get resettle in the MD and VA suburbs, which might claim to have bus networks but in reality they’re not functional enough for someone to rely on.

          • Nicky

            That may be your perception, but for most of Northern Virginia, that’s simply not true. Much of Fairfax and Arlington counties are well served by buses. And not all of DC is within a block or two of a bus stop, either.

          • AG

            And yet a lot of people do. A lot of new immigrants live out in Maryland and they either take very inconvenient bus/metro or they carpool.

          • d

            I mean if you want to get into the nitty gritty you should speak to someone at a resettlement agency. I don’t work for one, but I work for a similar org and I know a lot of resettled refugees personally.

            From what I have seen they are typically settled in low-income apartments in densely populated areas. Typically in a place where they can walk to a few amenities and where there are some buses available. So in the suburbs you’re talking about say a Hyattsville or the area of the NH Ave/University intersection. Or a cheap part of say Jersey City or Newark, or North Omaha where rents are low and you can walk to a bodega for food.

            But yes, in the long run most end up purchasing cars once the build up the savings/credit to do so, just like most good Americans :)

          • Painful Experience

            I can categorically state that the bus networks in MD and VA are, in fact, functional enough to rely on on any given day.

            It isn’t fun. Or expedient. At all. But it is reliable. You can get from most any point A in the Metro DC area to any point B in the Metro DC area in under 2 hours.

            Just don’t miss your bus. And inclement weather, you’ll need to take the day off.

  • d

    hopefully this link will make it through moderation:

    It is true that not *many* refugees are resettled to the District, but some are. The ones I know who were resettled here had no family ties here (nor to any other place in the US), it was just random luck.

  • elizml

    In general refugees are not resettled in more expensive markets like DC unless they have a tie to the community (i.e. relatives) that will help them in the early months after their arrival.

  • FYI

    Just keep in mind if you have an Intel clearance you’ll probably lose it. Cost benefit analysis to see if it’s worth giving your time vs money.

    • lrds

      This is false. False false false. Please do not listen to this person on the security clearance system. If you maintain a clearance and have any questions or concerns, ask your security officer.

  • Tee

    Recognizing that we are where we are and needs of desperate refugees cannot be ignored, the spreading hundreds of thousands of refugees around the world is horrendous international policy and is counterproductive in establishing any positive nation-state for these people. In fact, it shows the utter uselessness of the UN and other international bodies.

  • Cristi

    There also is aidrefugees.gov you can put in your zip code and it brings up some options, altho not all are with Syrians specifically.

    Has anyone worked with http://www.usccb.org/ ? Since they are the only one in other comments listed for DC, I checked out their webpage. The US conference for Catholic Bishops – they don’t seem into birth control. Does anyone know if they refer refugees to birth control or discourage it?

  • Hi there,
    I’m interested in this as well. I found the following information on the IRC of Silver Spring website: http://www.rescue.org/us-program/us-washington-dc/volunteer-opportunities

    They also have a Facebook Page with valuable info:

    Hope this is helpful and that many D.C. residents will pitch in to help.


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