Friday, January 30, 2009

For refugees, recession makes hard times even harder.

On Sunday, I shared an article from the Boston Globe on the difficulties that educated refugees face trying to break into the American job market. Today, the New York Times reports on the challenges that all refugees face as they try to survive in the United States in the midst of a recession that has been especially hard on vulnerable populations:
After escaping violence in Burma and spending 27 years in the bamboo huts of a United Nations camp in Thailand, Nyaw Paw, 33, arrived in the United States last August to face the traumatic adjustment and cultural vertigo known to every refugee.

But with high rents, lagging federal aid and now a recession that is drying up entry-level work, the transition has become harder than ever, refugee workers say. Overwhelming housing costs are its starkest symptom. Many new arrivals spend 90 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities, leaving them virtually no disposable income and creating enormous hardships.

Ms. Nyaw Paw, who was placed in Salt Lake City with her two sons, ages 6 and 13, has scraped together the $600 rent on their one-bedroom apartment from federal payments that ended in December. Now, her only income is a welfare grant of about $500 a month; a private aid agency fills the gap.

Ms. Nyaw Paw has tried for traditional starter jobs, like motel housekeeping, but no one is hiring here. Her life demands such frugality that she washes the family clothes in the bathtub rather than feeding quarters to the machine down the hall.

“I think about the rent every minute,” Ms. Nyaw Paw said through a translator, and I don’t know what I’ll do when the aid programs run out.”
For the rest, click here. In a telephone conversation earlier this afternoon, I mentioned this article to a former coworker from the refugee resettlement program I worked with in California. She confirmed that her clients have been badly hit by the recession, with many unable to find any kind of work and some facing eviction because they simply don't have the money to pay their rent. From my own experiences working with the program, I can attest that refugees struggle to make ends meet even in the best of times. In times like these, the struggles they face are even more acute.

As I did at the start of the week, I'm offering my prayers today for the refugees who have escaped from violence but must now confront new forms of insecurity. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home