THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS

MAYOR DOMENIC J. SARNO
HOME OF THE BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME

August 21, 2013

Jewish Family Services-Western Mass 1160 Dickinson St Springfield, MA 01108 Catholic Charities Agency 65 Elliot Street Springfield, MA 01105

Lutheran Social Services 593 Main St Springfield, MA 01089

Sent Via Electronic Mail

Dear Service Providers: In preparation for our upcoming meeting scheduled for August 28, and in the spirit of cooperation, I wanted to take this opportunity to set forth the issues that the City of Springfield is concerned about relative to the ongoing settlement of refugees, and to request information that will allow our meeting to be both efficient and productive. It is my hope that the information being sought by my office will be made available for review prior to sitting down together on the 28th, and I look forward to working together to responsibly develop a plan to resolve what has become a serious matter of public safety. In order to properly evaluate the data that corresponds to the settlement of and services provided to refugees in Springfield, I renew my request for all proposals, abstracts and informational documentation submitted by or on behalf of local settlement agencies, including the exact number of individuals settled in Springfield since 2010, and the numbers of refugees settled in Western Massachusetts during the same time period, broken down by community and country of origin.

City of Springfield • 36 Court Street • Springfield, MA 01103-1687 • (413) 787-6100

I have received some explanation of what services are provided to the refugees in the first 90 days, but I would like a clearer sense of exactly what transitional assistance is provided to the refugees in the following areas: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Cash assistance; both initial and more long-term; Case management services Employment readiness and search services Adult English Language Assistance Educational support for children Medical Assistance; is there any ongoing support beyond applying for public insurance benefits 7. Psychological counseling 8. Peer support groups 9. Housing selection and support services

I have invited a representative of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants to attend. Under the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 6, §207, the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants is authorized, among other things: to plan, coordinate, monitor, and administer programs that provide transitional assistance to refugees and immigrants and that lead to durable self-sufficiency, and to ascertain the needs of local communities with significant populations of refugees and immigrants and to work with local officials and community-based organizations to address those needs, to increase the availability and utilization of qualified interpreter services, to enter into agreements or contracts with other public or private agencies or units of local, county, or state government for the delivery and/or coordination of services to refugees and immigrants or for other statutorily-authorized purposes and to the office, to administer federal monies received by the commonwealth for services to refugees and immigrants, to impose reasonable charges for any services rendered or materials furnished. It is my hope that a representative from the State will be able to meet to discuss how best to utilize the authority of that office to address concerns of the residents of the City of Springfield. In addition to the foregoing, I am also requesting that the service providers supply the City with any documentation submitted to the Office for Refugees and Immigrants or U.S. State Department indicating and corresponding to the applicable criteria used to select what communities refugees are placed in. I would like to obtain a copy of any documents indicating whether the criteria includes a review of the number of refugees already placed in a given community, and whether there is some attempt to measure the impact on the host community of significant number of refugees living at or below the poverty line on a communities resources? For example, is any determination, consideration, or evaluation made as to the local government’s capacity to absorb refugees who have been traumatized by tragic events in their lives and the local public agencies for a host community within that jurisdiction? The City of Springfield currently has limited capacity to provide social services to meet the existing needs of the community's current residents. The estimated median household income for Springfield in 2011 was $32,124 while median household income for the state is estimated at $62, 859. Springfield has a large percentage of its existing population living below the poverty level, and has insufficient resources available to make available to

meet the needs of its most needy residents. The availability of affordable housing, low-cost housing, or both, and existing waiting lists for such housing in the community should be a consideration when making these decisions. In addition, the capacity of the local school district to meet the needs of the existing or anticipated refugee student population must be considered before future placements are made. Considering the high level of unemployment in Springfield, there is likely a limited ability of the local economy to absorb new workers without causing displacing existing local workers, or adversely affecting the wages or working conditions of the local workforce. I would like to make arrangements to participate with the State and local settlement agencies to: • advocate for increased amount of federal refugee assistance, to extend assistance services to one year, extend refugee case management to 18 months (with well-defined responsibilities including education, housing, transportation, banking, health care, and communications) and expand employment services (with a focus on securing housing near available employment, and capitalizing on refugees’ existing fields of expertise) create a state supplement to the federal refugee assistance program promote community development in immigrant neighborhoods by investing in resources and supports, as well as improving physical infrastructure including the quality of housing and community spaces Increase the number of local and state inspectors available to review housing violations.

• •

The health, safety and welfare of the people of Springfield and refugees being placed here is my primary concern. With the help of your agencies and the Commonwealth Office of Refugees and Immigrants, it is my sincere goal to create a comprehensive plan for coordination between the City, public agencies, and local settlement agencies providing services to the refugees. I look forward to reviewing the information provided in response to this correspondence, and to discussing potential avenues for improved communication and allocation of resources going forward. Thank you in advance for your continued attention to this matter and for your prompt response to the above requests. Respectfully,

Domenic J. Sarno Mayor

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