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Boise Fits Bill for Refugees Seeking New Start


Tuesday, September 6, 2016   

BOISE, Idaho – Boise has accepted more Syrian refugees for relocation than New York City and Los Angeles combined, according to The New York Times.

Boise and other mid-sized cities are attractive relocation destinations because of their affordability.

Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, says resettlement programs like his have to consider that these people, who are often fleeing war in their home country, are starting their lives over with the most basic needs.

"That's one of the responsibilities of the resettlement program is to make sure that the first permanent housing arrangement they have, which is usually an apartment, is furnished and has an adequate number of beds and cooking utensils, and various things that a household needs in order to function," he explains.

Last fall, President Barack Obama said the U.S. would admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by September of this year. The country reached that goal a month early.

Since last fall, 104 Syrian refugees and about 1,100 refugees in total have been resettled in Boise.

Reeves says refugees are subjected to rigorous background checks before they arrive in the U.S., and the process often takes one to two years to complete.

Once the refugees arrive, Reeves says his agency does what it can to ensure they find employment and contribute to the local economy.

"The expectation is that they will become self-sufficient as quickly as possible after their initial resettlement,” he stresses. “So, the program in place is directed toward that end, that people will be preparing for employment, families will be self-sufficient through employment."

Reeves adds some refugees come with high levels of education and often struggle to find jobs that allow them to use those skills because of language barriers. Reeves says there's a separate program to help these individuals.

The initiative Neighbors United Boise – a network of nearly 50 organizations including Reeves' agency and the United Way – is working to provide a welcoming atmosphere for refugees so they can begin to feel at home after they arrive. Reeves says that's the most important part of relocation.

"When you get to know people through meaningful contact and you see the common things that you share, you appreciate the story that a refugee may have to tell about his or her life,” he relates. “This develops some bonds of friendship that are really important in this whole process."

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