JFCS East Bay’s LGBT Refugee Services program resettles LGBT refugees from Africa and the Middle East who have had to flee their countries due to persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. These refugees arrive in the United States very much in need of friendship and support from people they can trust.
Because LGBT refugees arrive in the country completely alone, they rely on JFCS East Bay and our volunteers to assist them in building community and learning what life is like in the United States. For each LGBT refugee, we try to build a team of about three volunteers. For our volunteers, spending time with someone who is experiencing the freedom of openly being themselves for the first time becomes a deeply meaningful experience.
When matched with an LGBT refugee, volunteers provide a range of assistance, including:
- Helping with English conversation skills.
- Connecting refugees to the local LGBT community.
- Helping clients learn how to use the public transportation system.
- Introducing refugees to LGBT-friendly neighborhoods, businesses, restaurants, and more.
- Providing assistance in life skills, such as how to read PG&E and telephone bills, how to fill out simple applications, and how to use the banking system.
- Providing friendship and support.
- Providing guidance in looking for a job and preparing for interviews.
- Taking refugees to local LGBT events, such as the Pride Parade or Frameline Film Festival.
- Teaching shopping skills, especially for refugees on a budget.
As part of our resettlement program, JFCS East Bay is responsible for finding each new LGBT refugee transitional housing for their first few months in the country. We have found that staying with a supportive host provides LGBT refugees with the best transition to living in the United States.
We are always looking for community members who are willing to open their homes for a short period of time (typically two to eight months). Refugees are able to pay a nominal rent to cover expenses. These few months of living in a friendly home allows new refugees to become familiar with their surroundings, learn English, and find a job. Our staff and volunteers provide intensive support during this time; housing hosts simply provide the room.