For more than 30 years, Catholic Charities has resettled individuals and families who have been declared refugees by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. These newcomers to Pittsburgh seek a new life after fleeing from war or facing political or religious persecution. Many have lived in refugee camps for more than 15 years - some for their entire lives - and come to this country with very few possessions, very limited or no understanding of English, and very limited knowledge of their new culture and neighborhood.
And while resettlement agencies provide for clients' immediate needs, such as shelter, food, and basic job assistance, limited resources have in the past prevented Catholic Charities from responding to the emotional effects of trauma. Catholic Charities also wished to provide more enhanced services in the areas of employment preparedness, life skills and parenting to those whose first language is not English.
Currently, Catholic Charities is one of four organizations that provides resettlement services to new refugees in Pittsburgh. However, by the end of September 2016 we will begin the process of formally reconfiguring our refugee program to provide lasting support in the areas of mental health and general stability. As we work towards our new model, we will continue to partner with local resettlement agencies, all of whom continue to offer excellent services.
Our decision to revamp our refugee program comes largely from our recognition of a tremendous need for other types of meaningful assistance. For years, Catholic Charities has been seeking mental health solutions to the trauma and suffering that many refugees bring with them. Recognizing the pressing need to expand the psychological services currently available to refugees, Catholic Charities' Board of Directors in June approved the decision to refocus refugee programming. Catholic Charities has a well-developed counseling program and provides safety net and stability services in all six counties of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. We are in a unique position to adapt these programs specifically for the refugee population in our region.
We will need to spend the next three to six months working closely with experts to design a service model that best responds to refugees' needs. In the meantime, Catholic Charities will share resources and best practices with the existing resettlement programs, and offer referrals as needed to refugees who consult us. By July 1, 2017, we expect to launch our new refugee program.
Catholic Charities anticipates that new volunteer opportunities to assist refugees will become available within a year. In the meantime, here's how you can help:
To help support our new initiative, you may give online here.
Host a Refugee Simulation
Catholic Charities has created a refugee simulation designed to help you understand what refugees experience—what forces them from their homeland, and what they go through in the early days of arrival and the weeks following. Contact Carrie Richardson at (412) 456-6965 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are still interested in helping with the refugee resettlement process please contact one of the other resettlement agencies.
AJAPO (Acculturation for Justice, Access, and Peace Outreach)...................(412) 391-4985
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh (JF&CS)........................(412) 521-1737
Northern Area Multi Service Center (NAMS).................................................(412) 781-6774