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Charities, Leaders Partner for New Detroit Refugee Network

Samaritas, the Detroit-based statewide health and human services organization that operates one of Michigan’s largest refugee resettlement programs, announced in April the launch of the Detroit Refugee Network (DRN), which will provide support services to refugees from Afghanistan and other nations as they resettle in Detroit. The DRN is a coalition of corporate, civic, and community leaders coming together to welcome refugees into our community.

Rocket Companies
Luke Londo

April 20, 2022

Samaritas, the Detroit-based statewide health and human services organization that operates one of Michigan’s largest refugee resettlement programs, announced in April the launch of the Detroit Refugee Network (DRN), which will provide support services to refugees from Afghanistan and other nations as they resettle in Detroit. The DRN is a coalition of corporate, civic, and community leaders coming together to welcome refugees into our community.

Co-chaired by Samaritas Chief Advancement Officer Kelli Dobner and Detroit’s First Lady Dr. Sonia Hassan, the DRN will serve clients of three resettlement agencies, including Samaritas, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSEM) in a coordinated effort. DRN seeks $1.13 million to provide refugees in Detroit with a full range of services, including housing, education, transportation, legal service support, ESL learning opportunities, utility assistance and employment services.

Via the three resettlement agencies, more than 650 Afghan refugees have come to Southeast Michigan since 2001, with more than 250 planning to settle in Detroit. To date, DRN has already secured leases for 183 refugees in Detroit. They need additional support, especially in the first year of resettlement, as the majority of Afghan refugees have a limited “humanitarian parolee” status and there is not yet a large community of Afghans in Metro Detroit.

“Thanks to the partnership and vision of the City of Detroit, we are going to be able to help more refugees from Afghanistan and elsewhere become more acclimated Detroiters, more quickly, so they can thrive in their new community,” said Kelli Dobner, chief advancement officer for Samaritas and co-chair of the Detroit Refugee Network. “Our aim is to place more than 250 individuals in Detroit, more than in any other single city in Michigan. We know this will be a welcoming city for them.”

DRN has already received nearly $50,000 in donations from its partner, CARE USA, which has joined the effort to provide needed cash payments up to $1,000 to refugee families who have resettled in Detroit, helping to fill in the gaps that government assistance does not cover.

Detroit’s First Lady Dr. Sonia Hassan serves as volunteer co-chair of the Detroit Refugee Network. “As the daughter of Egyptian immigrants, I have witnessed how my parents’ drive, passion, and determination led to the American dream after starting from nothing,” Dr. Hassan said. “The Detroit Refugee Network is helping families to embark on new lives in the City of Detroit. I am deeply committed and honored to be a part of this cause.”

The Detroit Refugee Network focuses on a set of priorities designed for families to succeed, thrive and stay in Detroit:

  • Immediate placement in affordable permanent housing on the road to homeownership
  • Basic needs, safety, and legal services
  • Access to health care and family wellness
  • Employment programs
  • Transportation
  • Cultural and social education
  • Education and school integration
  • Faith community partners

Based on Samaritas’ decades of service to refugees from around the world, more than 75% of refugees are self-sufficient within 180 days.

“These families have left everything behind and are starting over in an unfamiliar environment,” said Ryan Shepard, CARE US associate vice president of U.S. programs. “Imagine fleeing your home and now worrying about providing your family with everything from shelter, food, and education. We hope providing this extra cash, as CARE does in other humanitarian emergencies globally, will make the adjustment a little easier for these families arriving in Detroit and beyond.”

The DRN will also see additional capacity through support coordinated by the Rocket Community Fund, with seven Rocket Companies team members embedded within Samaritas as part of the DRN, representing a $750,000 in-kind donation. These team members will help identify and execute housing opportunities, manage relationships with landlords, monitor inventory leads, coordinate move-ins and assist with job placement once refugees are settled into housing.

“We are committed to providing lasting and sustainable housing for all Detroit residents, including those refugees who now call our city home,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund. “The Detroit Refugee Network is a critical initiative that provides supports to those who need it most, and we are proud to be providing Samaritas and its partners with the talent they need to fulfill this urgent mission.”

Samaritas serves as the fiduciary of the DRN, but funds raised will be made available to clients of Samaritas, USCRI and CCSEM, all of which have welcomed Afghan refugees, as well as those from other countries, and all of which are working with the City of Detroit to settle clients inside the city.

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