Imagine this: The country you were born in, raised in, and started a family in is no longer safe. You scrape up everything you have to find a way out. After the treacherous journey, you and your family are finally able to set foot in a place of freedom. Or so they say. 

What’s the next step? What do you do? Where do you go?

Harrisonburg, Virginia is home to many people who come to the United States seeking refuge. It is a resettlement community that works to find a place to live for individuals and families from other countries. There are two main resource centers in Harrisonburg for refugees: NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center and Church World Services. 

Within these organizations there are still limited resources for refugees, especially women. Though both organizations do a great job trying to raise money and give all they are able, it is a matter of government policy that is hindering their abilities to provide adequate resources. 

The Department of State provides a one-time payment of $2,375 per individual refugee to the local resettlement affiliates, of which $1,275 is available for agencies to use to fund the critical direct assistance needs of refugees, such as rent, food, clothing, and furnishings”

So the government only allots $1,275 to each refugee. That’s it. That is maybe two months rent, if that. More on that website explains that the rest of that $2,375 is used by the resettlement agency to provide 90 days of services.

Resettlement agencies must provide services for the first 30-90 days the individuals are with that organization. Church World Services provides 90 days of services that include:

“Safe, clean, and affordable housing, essential furnishings for their new home, food and food allowance, necessary clothing, assistance in health screening and appropriate health programs, assistance in applying for Social Security Cards, registering the children in school, employment training and employment services, cultural orientation, English language training or referral”. 

Beyond that three month period, you must work to be self-sufficient with very little support.

This is a huge humanitarian issue, but why is it also a feminist issue? Many of the refugees who come here are mothers and women. Not only is a mother having a responsibility to her children, but also a responsibility to provide for herself. After that 90 day period, people are expected to be sufficient on their own with very little support. That means that mothers are expected to find a job on top of taking care of their children. You may be thinking “Well that is the case for many people”. Yes you are right, but think about all the additional barriers women face. Especially marginalized women. Language, cultural differences, lack of efficient transportation. On top of that, many refugees, especially females, deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Then think of how expensive it is to buy feminine products like tampons and pads. Women of marginalized communities experience higher rates of sexualized violence.

Evil people take advantage of their heightened state of vulnerability.

What happens if she is pregnant? 

Taking care of yourself becomes difficult in a place where the healthcare is very different from what you are used to. Harrisonburg offers resources for healthcare but very little. Many hospitals have interpreters, but do most gynecologist offices have one? Are hospitals the best place to receive mental health care?

All of this while only getting $1,275  and three months of initial support.

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Organizations like Church World Services are doing everything they can to help support people who are just trying to find a safer place to live for themselves or their family. It is difficult to fully support these women when the government is not backing them up.  

For those interested, here is a list of the few resources on the Harrisonburg website.

: $1,275

3 thoughts on “$1,275

  1. I think this is a critical conversation that should be happening. The phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” is often thrown around as the primary argument for the lack of support. “Well, they should be glad they got anything at all, really.” When in reality, the dehumanization of people seeking asylum and fleeing terror or just wanting to immigrate is always the real justification. And it begins with a white supremacist system that centers colonization/ethnocentric ideologies to further their political gain. How? profits. Profits off of the dehumanization, profits off of the low income housing they force them to live in, force them to eat the food closest to them, force them to become part of the trafficking and prison system by placing systemic barriers surrounding work and healthcare, force them to work in the factories that abuse their human rights and environmental health. Force them to exhaust all options, while fighting the hate spewed. And then laugh when they die and see “see, they deserved it. They “Just couldn’t work hard enough” when in reality they are puppeteers, ensuring these laws stay in place. Ensuring stipends of 1k are never enough by raising local market prices. They know how hard it would be to make it without help. And that’s the point. That’s white supremacy. That’s genocide. And they know it.


  2. I didn’t know that about the Harrisonburg/JMU area. This was really eye-opening, thank you.


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