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As Resettlement Agencies Face Uncertainty, Donors Rally For Syrian Family

By Stephen Gossett in News on Mar 8, 2017 7:55PM


A viral campaign to help with finances for a refugee family from Syria now based in the Chicago area quickly garnered over $4,000 to help support the mother and her five children. At the same time, the need for public fundraising underscores the financial difficulties that resettlement agencies now face after President Donald Trump's latest refugee restriction.

Huda Hidar, 45, fled war-torn Syria last year with her four sons and one daughter. She was badly injured by shrapnel on her shoulder and face during an airstrike; while she was in the hospital, she learned from a cousin that one of her five sons and her husband were killed in a chemical attack, according to an interview she conducted with the Tribune.

Hidar and her surviving children eventually resettled in Evanston, but the initial sum of money they received has mostly run dray. Even with employment, she still has difficulty meeting rent and utility payments, fundraiser Jonathan Yenkin, a volunteer with the Syrian Community Network, wrote on the campaign page. SCN is a non-profit that works to "assist in easing the resettlement of Syrian refugees," its site reads.

"Thanks to the generous support received so far, Huda should be able to pay her family's rent for at least the next couple of months," he wrote after funds started to come in. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 60 people had given a total of more more than $4,000 in 10 days.

Such reliance on public outreach for refugee assistance could become more of the norm, as resettlement agencies stare down the potential of federal cuts. As WBEZ reported, federal money comes in per capita, and given the administration's latest round of refugee restrictions, that likely means fewer government funds.

Jims Porter, Grants & Communications Coordinator of the Chicago-based RefugeeOne resettlement services, echoed that prescription. He couldn't offer a definite total on how much public funding his service stands to lose in the face of the latest refugee order. But "with the ceiling lowered to 50,000 and having almost already met that, new arrivals are going to slow to a trickle—which means a significant reduction in funds from that revenue stream," he told Chicagoist.

And the struggle for a financial foothold can be intense, as federal money was already in short supply. A refugee typically gets around $1125 from federal funds for the first three months, Porter said, "but that won't even pay the first month's rent in Chicago," he added.

Porter said that organizations have faced similar pinches in the past—after 9/11, for instance—and that RefugeeOne started fortifying independent fundraising in 2014 after the sate cut funds for its Enhanced Language Training and wellness programs. Businesses, individuals and religious organizations have largely had to fill the gap, he said.