Social services agency begins Syrian refugee resettlement in Ann Arbor

Responding to the recent influx of Syrian refugees, a Michigan social services agency is expanding its refugee resettlement program into Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti this month.

Samaritas, formerly Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, is adding one new case worker to coordinate resettlements from its existing office on Carpenter Road in Ann Arbor. Additional staff may be hired as needed. Samaritas has also received approval from the U.S. State Department to expand its Detroit-area refugee resettlement program into nearby Westland, Inkster, and Northville.

The expansion helps the faith-based organization accommodate the large numbers of Syrians fleeing civil war in their home country. It also follows recent reports that Michigan, specifically the Detroit area, is the top destination for the 10,000 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States this fiscal year.

Resettlements into the new partner communities have already begun, according to Lynne Golodner, a spokesperson for Samaritas. About a dozen families will be placed during the first wave.

"We are eager to work with communities and organizations in the Ann Arbor area who are enthusiastic about helping refugees build a new life here," she says.

Other Ann Arbor congregations, outreach organizations, and University of Michigan staff and students will assist with the transitions. The Washtenaw Refugee Welcome collective meets monthly to help with resource planning, including housing, medical care, transportation, and employment for Samaritas' and Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County's refugee programs.

Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sound bites have been prevalent this election cycle, but Golodner says those sentiments have not affected Samaritas' work or this new effort.

"We find that most people are, in fact, very open to welcoming refugees," she says. "They understand that a refugee seeks refuge in a place of welcome. We are happy to be that place of welcome for people from all over the world who seek an end to their nightmare."

Samaritas is seeking business partners to employ, mentor, or train refugees, as well as volunteers to serve as mentors or tutors. Contact Samaritas' Troy office at (248) 423-2770 for more information.
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