Northampton refugee resettlement plans advance 

  • Susannah Crolius, of Catholic Charities, speaks before the Northampton City Council, Thursday. AMANDA DRANE

  • Susannah Crolius and Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, of Catholic Charities, appear at Thursday’s meeting of the Northampton City Council. AMANDA DRANE

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — Plans are advancing to bring 51 refugees to the city, members of Catholic Charities told the City Council on Thursday.

Susannah Crolius, coordinator of outreach and resource development for the Springfield organization, described goals for the coming months. She announced the first refugees could arrive as early as January 2017, with the rest of the families coming at various times during next year.

Catholic Charities has worked with community members to form a 14-member steering committee of city officials and representatives from area nonprofits and faith organizations to address issues including housing, education, employment and other services.

Members of the steering committee include Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa F. Klein, Superintendent of Schools John Provost, United Way Executive Director James Ayres, the Rev. Janet Bush of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Northampton and Florence, and leaders of the International Language Institute and the Center for New Americans.

People around the world are forcibly displaced from their home countries in increasing numbers, Crolius told councilors. “That is the global context in which we begin the conversation,” she added.

Crolius said Springfield has already accepted refugees, and that is why Catholic Charities approached Northampton.

Ward 6 Councilor Marianne LaBarge responded by saying that she has heard from residents who are concerned with what they consider to be a large number of refugees coming to the city.

“I think it’s extremely important that the residents in the community are really educated about what’s going on,” she said.

“This is an anxiety-inducing issue,” Crolius conceded. “We are not wearing rose-colored glasses.”

At-large Councilor and President William Dwight said that while there are some residents with concerns, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I think you have a receptive audience, here,” he told Crolius and Catholic Charities Executive Director Kathryn Buckley-Brawner. “I’m proud of my town.”

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