How You Can Help Newly Arriving Refugees

October 21, 2015
By Amy Weiss

JFCS East Bay is heartened by our community’s strong interest in welcoming and supporting newly arriving refugees. JFCS East Bay is currently resettling large numbers of Afghan refugees, some Iraqi refugees, LGBT refugees from Africa and the Middle East, and others; we expect to welcome Syrian refugees as they make their way through the resettlement process. While our agency provides a full range of comprehensive services to each individual and family we resettle, we know from experience that “it takes a village” to help people begin their new lives here. We are glad to present these ideas for meaningful assistance.

Provide Essential Financial Support

Refugees often are forced to leave everything behind when they flee their home countries. They receive modest federal assistance for their first eight months here, but these funds are seldom adequate to cover the basic expenses of starting life over again in the expensive Bay Area. By designating a donation to JFCS East Bay’s Refugee Resettlement program, you can support newly arriving refugees with expenses that include the following:

  • Security deposits for a new apartment.
  • Delivery costs of donated furniture and large household supplies.
  • Essential household items.
  • Vocational programs and job search expenses.
  • Public transportation costs.
  • Children’s school supplies, books, educational toys, and summer camp costs.

You can make a donation here.

Volunteer Your Time

While JFCS East Bay staff members provide intensive support to new arrivals, refugees benefit immensely from forming relationships with community volunteers who offer friendship and help people learn the large and small aspects of how life works in the U.S. Here are some activities that our trained volunteers can provide:

  • Tutor English for children or adults.
  • Drive clients to essential appointments.
  • Introduce clients to shopping and finding good bargains.
  • Teach refugees about the public transportation system.
  • Show refugees the community.
  • Be a supportive friend.

Please contact or fill out our Volunteer Interest Form if you, your group, or your congregation are interested in volunteering.

Take Up a Collection Drive

As part of our resettlement program, we help each new refugee furnish their apartment. Through the generosity of community members, we are proud to provide refugees with quality donated household items in excellent, clean condition. We welcome donations from individuals or from people who have organized a collection drive in their neighborhood, school, or congregation. Following is a list of the types of items needed by arriving refugees.

  • Small household items: pots, pans, kitchen utensils, plates, bowls, glasses, cups, silverware, baking pans, serving platters, small appliances, lamps, irons.
  • Household furniture: beds, dressers, nightstands, lamps, couches, coffee tables, small dining tables with chairs.
  • Baby items: Cribs, bassinets, high chairs, strollers, car seats, booster seats, educational toys/games, diapers.
  • School supplies: backpacks, lunch boxes, pencils, pens, binders, lined paper, notebooks, markers, colored pencils, scissors, tape, staplers.
  • Toiletries: newly purchased shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, lotion, shaving items.
  • Cleaning supplies: brooms, mops, vacuums, buckets, cleaning products.

Please contact or fill out our Volunteer Interest Form if you are interested in donating items.

Provide a Safe Home for a Refugee

Refugee individuals and families face an extremely difficult challenge in securing housing in the East Bay. Rents are expensive and initial deposit fees are high. Refugees arrive with no credit or work history in the United States, both of which present obstacles to renting an apartment. It takes some time for refugees to get through the resettlement process, get acclimated to the U.S., and find a job in order to afford a home.

By providing a home for the first few months after a refugee’s arrival, you can give someone a tremendous head start. The ideal housing arrangement is a private room, apartment, or house with easy access to public transportation. It is best if this arrangement can last for two months or more. Clients are usually able to help with household expenses, typically $200 to $300 a month. JFCS East Bay staff are fully involved in monitoring the housing arrangement and supporting housing hosts throughout a client’s stay.

Please contact or fill out our Volunteer Interest Form if you are interested in being a housing host.