A healing home in Northampton: Property owner Jordi Herold offers free apartment for a year to refugees

  • Northampton property owner Jordi Herold, right, stands for a portrait with his wife Elizabeth Dunaway and daughters Simone Dunaway, 10, and Zelda Dunaway, 7, outside his 26 Bedford Terrance property. Herold has offered up space inside the property to incoming refugees at no cost. Above, the home is shown at left, along with a neighboring property he owns on Bedford Terrace. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY PHOTOS

  • Two properties owned by Jordi Herold of Northampton are shown Dec. 23 on Bedford Terrance in Northampton. Herold has offered up space inside one of the properties to incoming refugees at no cost. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton property owner Jordi Herold, right, stands for a portrait with his wife Elizabeth Dunaway and daughters Simone Dunaway, 10, and Zelda Dunaway, 7, outside his 26 Bedford Terrance property. Herold has offered up space inside the property to incoming refugees at no cost. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton property owner Jordi Herold, right, stands for a portrait with his wife Elizabeth Dunaway and daughters Simone Dunaway, 10, and Zelda Dunaway, 7, inside the common area at his 26 Bedford Terrace property. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton property owner Jordi Herold, left, stands for a portrait with his wife Elizabeth Dunaway and daughters Simone Dunaway, 10, and Zelda Dunaway, 7, outside his 26 Bedford Terrance property. Herold has offered up space inside the property to incoming refugees at no cost. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@amandadrane
Published: 12/23/2016 11:32:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — City property owner and founder of the Iron Horse Jordi Herold said his decision to donate one of his rental units to incoming refugees spawned from a New Year’s resolution.

Each year during Hanukkah, Herold said his family takes time to reflect.

“How can you make the world a better place?” was the theme of last year’s introspection, he said.

From there, Herold said he and his daughters, now 7 and 10, resolved in 2016 to do whatever they could toward that end. So when organizers behind the city’s refugee resettlement announced they were looking for homes for incoming families, Herold answered the call.

“We can certainly do whatever we can with whatever we have to help out with the suffering in the world,” he said, adding the effort also honors European Jews denied entry to the United States during the Holocaust. “It’s important to do.”

Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Springfield’s Catholic Charities and leader of the city’s resettlement effort, said Herold is one of six property owners and managers to offer homes for refugees arriving in January. She said 10 additional units are available temporarily as members of the resettlement initiative seek out more permanent residences.

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.

“We don’t have all the housing we need for the entirety of the year,” she said. “But enough to get us started.”

Although Herold has offered the heated apartment on Bedford Terrace for one year at no charge, Buckley-Brawner said property owners don’t have to offer up spaces for free. She said Catholic Charities is asking landlords charge half of what they’d typically charge, and the organization will help refugees come up with the difference.

“We’re taking it a couple of months at a time because that’s how properties come open,” she said. “We’re slowly but surely setting up possibilities.”

City Council President Bill Dwight said the effort has been stymied by the city’s lack of affordable housing, which he called a “sticking point.”

“That’s our ongoing challenge,” he said.

Still, Mayor David Narkewicz said, the outpouring of donations has been impressive.

“It’s great that people like Jordi Herold are stepping forward to offer housing and I know other offers have come in,” he said. “I continue to remain positive about it and proud of the community for their response, from those earliest meetings with hundreds of people who showed up to learn about it.”

Meantime, Dwight and Narkewicz said a question mark hovers over the effort. That’s because President-elect Donald Trump threatens to halt the influx of refugees from Syria and perhaps other countries in the Middle East.

Narkewicz said some 500 people filled the JFK Middle School community room on Monday to discuss what they could do locally to make a broader political difference. He said helping incoming refugees emerged as one suggestion.

“It’s exciting, and obviously there’s anticipation in the community,” he said.

About 700 people signed up to volunteer in the resettlement efforts, and Buckley-Brawner said many of them are forming “circles of care,” or groups of up to 10 volunteers who “will accompany these families as they integrate” into the Northampton community.

She said these volunteer circles will help refugees tackle day-to-day hurdles like transportation needs, managing finances, navigating the grocery store and running machinery and appliances.

Dwight said the sheer number of volunteers who have stepped forward “speaks volumes.”

Buckley-Brawner said the generosity of the season continues to help the cause, despite the first refugees arriving during the coldest time of the year.

“The holiday season — it’s fitting in one way but it doesn’t feel very welcoming in terms of the weather,” she said. “I think for the families, the weather aside, they’re going to be so glad to be somewhere safe where they can really get down to the business of healing.”

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


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