City Council approves $50,000 for Refugee Resettlement Fund


Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler

A new senior-only DMV service center is opening at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center as a part of Skip-the-Line program.

Casey He and Saul Pink

City Council approved the creation of a $50,000 Refugee Resettlement Fund to assist refugee families settling in Evanston on Monday.

The fund will provide families who have fled violence and persecution with services such as housing, food, clothing and transportation, according to a memo from Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo.

City Council also authorized the Community Member Relief Fund in 2020, providing financial help to undocumented immigrants who cannot access other assistance programs. The city allocates $50,000 to the fund each year, which is set to continue in 2023. 

The difference between the two funds became a point of confusion for councilmembers like Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), who asked Ogbo what the new fund can provide that the Community Relief Fund cannot.

“The refugee fund, which is separate, will cover a range of services that are currently not funded by our Community Relief Fund,” Ogbo said. “There might be some legal services, some wellness programs, translation and interpretation services, job training.”

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) cited South and Central American migrants who were recently bussed from Texas to Chicago as potential beneficiaries of the new fund. He also said the fund could service Congolese and Ukrainian refugees. 

Evanston resident Kristin Kutzner Huzar spoke in support of the resolution during public comment, citing her experience hosting Afghan refugee families. 

“(Refugees) enrich our community in so many ways, and we need money set aside for them,” Huzar said. “This is going to help our city grow. This is going to help the vibrancy of our community.”

Ogbo said he does not have a current estimate for the number of refugees in Evanston, but  said about 150 lived in the city before the pandemic.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) said he met with city staff to discuss the Community Relief Fund and found much of the money in the fund had gone untouched. 

“Part of the reason around (the Refugee Resettlement Fund) was also to help us track the numbers to see who we’re reaching,” Geracaris said. “One of the things we discussed in the meeting was that we have a lot of leftover money in the Community Relief Fund because people are not accessing it.”

Reid suggested changing the name of the Community Relief Fund to avoid confusion about the purpose of the program. An undocumented person might not know that the fund is catered toward them, he said, but the new refugee fund clearly expresses its purpose in its name.

The resolution ultimately passed 7-0 as a special order of business, meaning it was placed on the council agenda at the request of the mayor or a majority of Council without approval from city committees.

Reid said while the $50,000 from the new fund might not give refugees all the services they need, it can work in tandem with the other city programs. 

“This isn’t enough money, and so I want to recognize that this isn’t gonna go a huge way,” Reid said. “But it will be meaningful to a number of families that we’re able to provide services to. This fills in gaps.”

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Twitter: @caseeey_he

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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