'It was a shock, it was a blow,' What's next after World Relief closes its doors in Boise?
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) —
Starting a new life in the U.S. can be difficult for refugees as it is. But imagine losing your only connection to housing, jobs and other basic need. That's what happened here in Boise, when World Relief shut its doors earlier this year.
In February 2017, World Relief announced five offices across the country would close, and 140 staff members would be laid off. Those offices included ones in Columbus, Ohio; Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Glen Burnie, Maryland; and here in Boise. According to its website, the five combined have resettled more than 25,000 refugees over the past four decades.
"It was a shock, it was a blow," said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, the executive director of another resettlement agency in town, the International Rescue Committee.
There used to be three resettlement agencies in Boise, before the World Relief closure. Now there are just two. Resettlement agencies help refugees find housing and jobs when they land in the U.S. They also provide many other services to refugees, like language classes, in order to help them become independent.
"Imagine being in a war-torn country, living in a camp, and finding out 'yay' you're going to America, and then you're here and a couple months later, the people you have started to build a relationship with are no longer there," said April Mantha at the IRC.
The World Relief building on Fairview Avenue in Boise is now just a shell of what it used to be. No more refugees will enter its door. No more people will start new lives there.
"We were all anticipating bad news unfortunately... that was the feeling," said Joelle Friesen, a former employee at World Relief.
Friesen, who used to work at World Relief, now works at the International Rescue Committee, a resettlement agency in Boise. She says she's seen about a dozen people from World Relief at the IRC, and feels it helps calms their nerves seeing a familiar face.
"I think it's helped them feel a little less like the new kid on the block."
The IRC and one other agency in town took in the World Relief refugees who needed support. Not only that, but the IRC hired someone specifically to help the World Relief refugees.
"We've now built relationships, they seem to be reassured," Mantha said.
April Mantha, and the rest of the crew at the IRC, help refugees find and secure jobs if they haven't already, and anything else they may need.
For the IRC Executive Director, Julianne Donnelly Tzul, it was no question they were going to step in and support those World Relief refugees. And many others who work at the IRC will tell you, once you witness all that these folks have gone through, there's no question they'll lend a helping hand to those who need one.
"We're going to help them if they come to our doors... no matter what," Donnelly Tzul said.