Refugees were living in squalor
ATLANTA – The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta has moved 58 refugees to a hotel from the crime-ridden, rodent-infested apartment complex where a church relief agency had housed them.
Officials of the archdiocese said they just became aware of the horrid conditions at the Crescent Hills Apartments, even though Catholic Social Services – an archdiocese division – has been settling refugees at the complex for at least five years.
The refugees are from several African countries, Bosnia, Vietnam and Afghanistan.
”We have not been a church to these people. There is no excuse for this, so we will make none,” said Archbishop John F. Donoghue of Atlanta, who is also president of the Catholic Social Services board of directors.
”It’s imperative we ask forgiveness of the people who were placed in Crescent Hills. We sincerely regret that any refugee entrusted to our care had to go through this experience.”
Augustino Adowe, who lived at the complex with his wife and four children, said he was pleased to move.
Adowe, who left Sudan last year, paid $440 a month for a two-bedroom apartment with no air conditioning and holes in the walls. Other residents complained of broken windows, rusted refrigerators and roaches by the hundreds. Beer bottles, glass and auto parts litter the sidewalks and halls.
Archdiocese officials said that 22 of the 34 families who had been living at the complex had chosen to stay.
Catholic Social Services takes hundreds of thousands of federal dollars for helping refugees find housing, jobs and medical care.
On Sunday morning, archdiocese employees and volunteers started moving some refugees into a hotel a few miles away.
”We went over and visited and saw they were very dirty and infested,” said Rebecca Theisen, assistant to the vice chancellor in charge of special projects for the diocese. ”When you see the condition of the apartments it’s very disturbing.”
Donoghue said he did not yet know where the refugees would live.
”I have simply put a Band-Aid on the problem and I’m aware of that,” he said.
In addition to the horrid living conditions, the agency routinely fails to help refugees find jobs, arrange medical care or help with immigration and other bureaucratic snags, refugees told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
When Adowe needed help completing immigration papers, he couldn’t get a caseworker to return his calls.
”When we asked them for help, they’d say, ‘We’re busy. Come back on Monday.’ Every week they would say that,” Adowe said. ”We’re new here. We didn’t know what to do.”
Adowe’s wife, Asino, said she will not bring her children back to Crescent Hills.
”When we were in Sudan, they said in America there would be no problems,” she said through an interpreter. ”But when we got here, there were lots of problems.”
On the Net:
State Department: http://www.state.gov