Portland, Ore., Sep 8, 2018 / 15:20 pm
For some 70 years, Catholic Charities in Oregon has helped refugees settle into their new life – assisting with everything from housing to English classes.
But with recent changes to vetting processes and travel bans, the state’s Catholic Charities will likely receive no more than 160 refugees for entirety of this fiscal year, ending in September. That’s nearly a 75 percent decrease from the estimated 600 refugees they helped settle in 2016.
The transition has been difficult, and more than half of the Oregon Catholic Charities’ refugee service staff had to be let go, said Matthew Westerbeck, program manager for Catholic Charities Refugee Services.
But the agency is adapting, and is now working to provide longer term support for new arrivals and refugees already here.
“We are focusing on employment, business development, mental health and counseling, and more intensive case management as well,” Westerbeck told CNA.
Just a year and a half ago, he said, no resettlement agency in Portland offered employment services. Agencies only provided eight months of aid from federal grants.
But now, Catholic Charities in Oregon is helping refugees find work, as part of its shift in focus to offer more in-depth and longer-term services.
“I think we are seeing significant changes in the families we offer employment services to and helping them with secure employment,” Westerbeck noted.