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Northampton officially designated refugee resettlement site

  • left, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, the Executive Director For Catholic Charities Agency and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski bishop of the Diocese of Springfield announce the official receipt of refugees to Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, announces that Northampton is officially a refugee resettlement community as Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Catholic Charities, looks on Thursday in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, and Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, the Executive Director For Catholic Charities Agency announce the official receipt of refugees to Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



@amandadrane
Thursday, January 05, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — One year after the City Council passed a resolution outlining the city’s commitment to welcoming refugees, plans to resettle 51 displaced people in Northampton became official last week.

In a press conference Thursday at City Hall, Mitchell Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, presented Mayor David Narkewicz with the contract that brings the refugees — and related federal funding — to the city’s doorsteps.

The first family could arrive any time now, with as little as two days’ notice.

“I’m especially proud of all the agencies and citizens who have come together,” Narkewicz said. “We look forward to the work ahead, welcoming these new members of our community.”

The contract between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities’ parent agency, and the U.S. State Department means the city was vetted and approved for refugee resettlement. Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Springfield’s Catholic Charities and leader of the city’s resettlement effort, said she activated the contract by signing it last week.

“It has been a long eight months of planning,” Buckley-Brawner said. “We await with some excitement and certainly a great deal of welcome for that first refugee family to settle here in Northampton.”

The State Department pays a one-time $1,125 per refugee. The contract also opens the door for refugee-related funding, like the grant that Buckley-Brawner already used to hire Keegan Pyle, charged with managing the “outpouring” of donations and volunteer support felt in recent months.

Pyle, an eight-year resident of Northampton, previously worked for the International Rescue Committee and is experienced in overseas relief work.

Pyle said she’s eager to begin coordinating the hundreds of volunteers waiting for direction.

“There’s a lot of people out there just waiting to hear from us,” Pyle said.

The agency plans to host 51 people, or about 10 families, from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. Buckley-Brawner said their arrival will be staggered throughout 2017, with about five refugees arriving each month.

So far, six permanent — offering accommodation for a year or more — and 10 temporary residences have been secured.

The United Way of Hampshire County is handling monetary donations, “so an organization that knows the community well is holding the dollars,” said James Ayres, the agency’s executive director. Plus, he said, the agency’s status as a privately funded nonprofit means it can more nimbly fundraise for any number of needs incoming families may have.

“Intentionally, we’re raising those dollars as flexibly as possible,” Ayres said, adding that, since so little is known about these families, they could need money for anything from medical expenses to children’s soccer gear.

The biggest issue that remains, Buckley-Brawner said, is transportation. She said members of the initiative are also still working to line up housing for all of the families. She said property owners in surrounding towns have reached out offering up spaces, so she’s looking into whether or not it’s possible to house some of the families across municipal lines.

“Those are the questions that have to be answered,” she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.