Sunday, September 27, 2015

Haven for 20 Syrian refugee families? Here? Shreveport-Bossier? A proposal and discussion as published on Facebook

UNHCR News Story: Syrians, risking everything to flee war, find chilly reception in Europe

What if Shreveport demonstrated social leadership by providing haven for 20 Syrian refugee families?

By Shreveport Blog editor Robert E Trudeau

It would not be cheap. I read that the Europeans typically invest $14000 in an immigrant. Shreveport would have to invest much more to bring them here. Having a group of very specific immigrants would give Shreveport a prism through which to see our own social limitations. On one hand, it would distract us from current issues. One the other hand, the insight gained by watching and listening to the refugees would give us a new way too see ourselves.

Have other American communities stepped forward to invest in Syrian immigrants? There may be a matrix that has been developed into which we could step. Are we ready to give up a notch or two of Shreveport comfort by extending ourselves in this direction?

Posted on Facebook on 9.27.15, this modest proposal drew quick and varied reactions from friends of mine - friends with strong opinions. The responses have been edited to a small degree.

Cheryl Hagar: I would take a family in and feed and clothe them myself. There but for the grace of God goes I.
John Wesley Hampson: Refugees might even have problems with the condition of this city. Our "leaders" would never consider it, unless on our dime.
Robert E Trudeau: Agreed. I think if we did this we would find new leadership. The current gang of politicians - elected with disgust by voters like me - are going to have to be ignored.
Will Broyles: While I understand the need to help others, I feel like we should get our house in order as a city before we continue to take on the burden of others in this way. But for private means, this seems well-intentioned but possibly mis-prioritized. And you're correct about the leadership problem here. It's damning.
Robert E Trudeau: This is actually about getting our house in order. Lacking the ability to face our issues head on - I think that is painfully apparent to you - I propose an end run. Syrian immigrants may seem of dubious priority to you. I understand. So let's look at multiple priorities.
Will Broyles: Fair enough.

Robin Norman Jones: I know many immigrants that have a huge and positive impact on our local community. Personally, I don't think God's community has any boundaries.
Joe Casciola: What really should be thought of is what the benefits of this could be 30, 40, 50 years from now. It should be approached as an investment.

Valerie Loridans I'd do it.

Jeff Abney: And what if you really asked groups to put their money where their mouth is - local churches? We have at least several churches (my own included) in Shreveport-Bossier who could afford to.
Madison Britt Wynne: Theres also an islamic center in town that could provide funds/insight.
George A. Tharpe III: My issue is look what we need to do for our own homeless community. We have a serious homeless crisis in this city and it just amazes me that people want to bring others from other countries in to help them BUT wouldn't think about helping those that are already here that need our help.
Robert E Trudeau: George, with respect, I am not sure you have a fact-based point to back up " a serious homeless crisis in this city." As a person who is in touch with homeless issues by communicating with organizational leaders - donating art to fundraisers being one steady reason to communicate - and by being a steady observer of life on and around Texas Ave and Hope St, I have come to believe that needs are largely being met. Not perfectly, but in a big picture.
George A. Tharpe III: Well as a businessman that has worked in and around downtown for the last 8 years, it would 'seem' to me that just walking around the streets by the courthouse, one can come to simple conclusions....not to sound heartless but do those in other countries that are having a hard time deserve our money more than those Americans that need our help?
Robert E Trudeau: Indeed, I see where your point originates, George.

Ania Swiergiel: If we always hesitate to help someone because someone else needs help, we will never help anyone. And not to diminish the needs in this country, but there's a significant difference between poverty and imminent death.
Jeff Abney: From a purely utilitarian standpoint, many (not all) of our local homeless population suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, and other co-morbidities that will prevent them from ever fully benefitting from efforts to move them out of homelessness.
Ania Swiergiel: I admire your pragmatism Jeff. It's a logical point of view, but it worries me to go down the route of grading human utility. No life is more valuable than any other in my opinion. It's not really our business to grade them, just to help them.

Lurah Blade: I've heard some voice their opinions saying, "save the whales?... How about the babies?"... Why can't we do both? Does one thing negate another? One man may have an unction(in his spirit) to help this man,.. And one man may have an And one man may have an unction(by the spirit) to help another man... If we are one,.. Then to help one man IS to help another man and in truth, help ones own self.. We may not be able to do it all, this even more speaks to why we need each other.. We are not created to be without help..if we do good to one we have done it to all, help the homeless here, help the Syrians.. It will and never should be one or the other... One means all. Much love 'er body.

John Perkins: Our local experience with refugees from South Viet Nam in the 1970s was positive. It was led by the Catholic Church if I remember, but I have lasting friendships and positive memories from those days. Sister Margaret was very strong in that respect.
Mark Goff: The city has a system to deal with our homeless. Liz Swain of the DDA has worked hard to provide food and temp shelter for the homeless. I used to provide space for different agencies to provide food. I guess it was no longer necessary.
Madison Britt Wynne: I think what Robert was getting at is that showing leadership with this issue could serve as a catalyst for other communities to follow...this mindset could be applied to local homeless of course. The alternative? Wait on governments to do something...maybe some of the blame is with us, the citizens. What if 2 families were taken in? Suggesting we shouldn’t help because others need help is fallacy.
Steve Allen: Hey, the Syrians I've heard speak on tv have all been intelligent educated middle class professionals, family people. I see much positive in inviting them.

Chuck Fulco: HELL NO! allow the radical muslims to continue to destroy their way of life. We have enough destroyers in our government, and they don't need any help! We can observe and "learn" from those already here..

Betsy Eldridge Ebarb: Robert, I appreciate your bringing this up. We should always at least discuss and put on the table ideas to help others. This is a great point of discussion.
Tabby Lane-Michaelson: Humans of New York is, as of this week, beginning to tell refugee's stories. The first installment of Brandon's interviews has left me completely stunned and heartbroken. To think that is only one of Millions of stories that are happening right now is unfathomable. Over 2/3 of Syria's 24 million population have fled or are in the process of fleeing as we speak. If you are not following HONY, do so now. This is not a European, or middle eastern problem. This is a world problem. A human problem. We are all human, no matter where we are born, what religion we are, or what color our skin may be...we all need to remember that. To see and hear what is happening right now makes me want to do something, anything I can to help.

Phillip Messinger: We don't need a "a prism through which to see our own social limitations"! There are already too many silly academics offering up experimental interpretations of the limitations as it is. Maybe we could just open the prisons to get a better understanding of crime too, while you're at it. We can't help anyone else until we straighten out the problems we're struggling with already!
Kevin Teague: Let me be clear. No.
Jim Cade: What if Shreveport took care of its own; try the rescue mission if you are truly wanting to show social leadership.

Carrie Journell: There is a lot of screening that goes into being a refugee and requirements to maintain that status once they get here. Our last apartment in Austin housed many refugee families and was like a model UN. Every morning they went to English and American lifestyle classes before they headed to work. I think before the government moves refugees to a city, they need that infrastructure in place to provide the help and education they need to adjust to life in America.

Alida Soileau: Lobbying churches, nonprofits, city government? Count me in.

Billy Judd: Leave them where they are. Help a vet or the homeless that are here now.

Tabby Lane-Michaelson: Germany is doing this with the hundreds of thousands flooding their borders. They, as a country, have programs in place to teach refugees their language, customs, laws, etc...all to help them assimilate in to their country. Knowing what these refugees have been going through, they'd gladly take these classes in any country, I'm sure of it.
Carrie Journell: Right, but you need things like refugee resource centers that know how to help them get social security numbers and green cards and it helps to have things like grocery stores that have the foods and spices and soaps that people from other continents are used to seeing. Here's a welcome video for refugees if you have the time to watch it. It'll give you a sense of the institutional needs of refugees.

Kim Putman: It doesn't have to be help our needy or theirs; it's possible to do both. See a need, fill a need. Robert, I have an extra bedroom and bathroom and I would be glad to help.
Robert E Trudeau: Cool, Kim.
In this city are many more generous people like yourself. This chat may lead nowhere except to re-affirm the widespread resources and generosity that are part of Shreveport's backbone. As Carrie Journell pointed out above, helping refugees is a complex task.But is is do-able.

Honor Cobb: Could you set up a Go Fund Me Account for it and many families we could "afford" to assist?
Robert E Trudeau: That would be a cool testing of the waters, Honor. Though I am not in a position to do that at this time.

LaShea Brittain: I think this is a wonderful idea. If I am remembering correctly, Shreveport hosted refugees from Kosovo in the 90's.

Kay Kennedy: I have an extra room and would do all I possibly can to help. What a beautiful country that has been destroyed and these individuals and families need our support.

George A. Tharpe III: St Mark's Episcopal Cathedral.

Phillip Messinger: Why bring these people here and take on the much larger risk of disturbing the already precarious state we have here rather than doing something about the situation(s) that have caused these people to flee their homeland? How in the world does it make sense to try to remedy problems in that part of the planet by sacrificing the shaky state at home. We have too much to repair and improve here to take on additional expense and difficulty.
What about the unfortunate people here who will resent their having to wait longer to reach the front of the line or even lose their place? How are we going to afford to accommodate refugees when we are already enduring shortages from decades of neglect of our own infrastructure. How many "volunteers" are available to tend to street, bridge and sewer repair/replacement? It's like saying, "we got wheels wobbling and about to go, nobody's getting off the wagon, maybe putting more up there will fix it. Let's take care of the people already here who need help.

Madison Britt Wynne: As we’ve already pointed out, and brushed over by you, MANY of these people are highly educated individuals, lawyers, doctors, business owners, teachers, etc. Arranging temp shelter and supplies is not the same as trying to fund a problem that can only be fixed by more funding (homeless for example). You must realize that if we followed your logic, then nothing would ever get done, because there is always a bigger problem right around the corner. What you’ve refused to see or accept, that this is not an ordinary problem...this is a government that has decided to murder its own people, resulting in HALF A NATION to flee. And you keep using this straw man argument. You said "rather than doing something about the situation(s) that have caused these people to flee.” No one has proposed trying to solve the problem that caused them to flee.... this is clearly federal matter between national governments. The proposal was to take a handful of individuals...not solve the Syrian civil war. Again...we’re not trying to solve the Syrian civil war, just trying to practice those good morals we were all taught in Sunday school.

Chase Boytim: FACT: if people don't step up, you could see 900,000+ people murdered. How many of the naysayers are Christians. This is not about money. We are talking about men, women and children. Europe is taking many more than the U.S. I would love to see Shreveport step up and at least take a minimal population of refugees.

Robert Boyd Dunlap: We did help create the problem. Where do we start? I think its time to shake this place up. If we were going to take care of the people here who need it, we'd be doing it already.
Phillip Messinger: Don't buy into blaming the US for so much when most of what is wrong has been caused by what we stopped doing. You might want to start by learning a few more languages, particularly phrases like, "no, please," "I'm sorry." and "take as much as you want, that's all I have."

Robert E Trudeau: A coalition of ministers - they have the manpower and potentially the money - and social workers - awareness of how to finesse the organizational team building - would have to take a look at my proposal. I have a colleague who's going to look into the immigration-related issues.

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