During the March “Murfreesboro Muslim Youth” (MMY) meeting soliciting help for refugees brought to Rutherford County by federal resettlement contractor World Relief, it was disclosed that goods and services that the government paid for were not provided to the new refugees.
According to Abdou Kattih, founder and president of MMY, were it not for his organization, special emergency needs such as getting medical care for the refugee who arrived with a broken jaw or simply providing household essentials and even clothing, would not have been addressed, explaining they had taken care of “someone that does not have literally anything but the clothes they had off of last month.” (See 1:47 mark of YouTube video clip below.)
Melissa Sohrabi, who merged her group “Roots for Refugees” with MMY, was more direct in detailing the deficiencies of the government contractor in this talk she delivered in March:
There is an expectation of what should happen and there’s reality of what really does happen. . . Why didn’t World Relief give them a table and chairs? Why didn’t they bring them a couch? What’s going on? . . . Not only did it not happen but if it did happen, those families are charged for every belonging, every item that is donated to World Relief, the family is then charged for, for having it delivered to them.
(See 7:04 mark of YouTube video clip below.)
World Relief (WR), based in Baltimore, is one of nine national refugee resettlement organizations that sign a “Cooperative Agreement” with the U.S. State Department to receive federal funding to resettle refugees. This is taxpayer money allocated for each refugee brought to a community; the funds are split between the refugee and the agency. In addition, the resettlement agency is required to provide the goods and services as detailed in the signed agreement.
Between fiscal years 2016 -17, WR was paid over $40 million by the federal government to resettle refugees in communities where they operate local offices which also receive federal funding through grants administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Nashville World Relief office has a history of relying on area non-profits to do its work rather than use its own resources despite agreeing to these written terms when they took the taxpayer money. For example, in one of their proposals submitted to the U.S. State Department in which they detail how many refugees they want to resettle, why they should be paid for this work and why Nashville is a desirable location for resettlement, they wrote:
The Nashville area offers numerous services through other non-profit organizations to refugees with critical and emergency needs. Refugees can visit the Nashville Rescue Mission for shelter, food and safety, as well as Room in the Inn which provides working men with a hot meal and a place to sleep during the winter months. There are several shelters for abused women in the area where refugee women and children can find safety if necessary. Rooftop Ministries provides one-time assistance with rent payments: Wherry Housing Complex in Rutherford County houses refugees and others recovering from alcohol and substance abuse and has a Community Servants program to meet refugee needs.
The Nashville Rescue Mission and Room in the Inn provide shelter to the homeless.
As Kattih explained in his opening statement, “most of the families that arrived in Tennessee, in Nashville in the last year and a half, were stuck in a hotel because of the housing problem in Tennessee.”
Sohrabi confirmed that when refugees brought to Murfreesboro finally do move to an apartment they end up in the same apartment complex. “A lot of them have food stamps and are eligible for ‘Families First'” (Tennessee’s cash welfare program). She explained that World Relief was not helping the refugees with their paperwork but were forced to wait a long time until a paid caseworker would help them obtain identification at the DMV.
After a pitch from the Tennessee Office for Refugees, the volunteer recruiting session ended with a TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) representative giving the usual inaccurate and skewed anti-Trump, anti-Tennessee state legislature information.