Caritas of Austin refugee resettlement program comes to an end

Adriana Rezal

Caritas of Austin announced the end of their Refugee Resettlement program on Sept. 27 due to a decrease in refugee arrivals, according to a press release. The nonprofit that works to alleviate homelessness stopped accepting refugees Sept. 30, however current refugee clients will continue to receive service until Dec. 31.

In September, the Trump administration announced the U.S. would lower the number of admitted refugees to 30,000 per year from 45,000. Between 2010 and 2016, Caritas of Austin served an average of 576 refugees per year but have received no clients since April, according to a press release.

Lauren Halpern, Caritas of Austin spokeswoman, said with so few clients it was unsustainable to continue employing the professionals needed for resettlement services. Rather than servicing the “international homeless,” they will now focus on domestic homelessness.

“It’s not really a political problem for Caritas,” Halpern said. “It’s more of a financial sustainability issue … it was not financially sustainable or feasible to continue to house all those professionals using donor’s money.”

Susan Stasney, Refugee Services of Texas resettlement supervisor, said her organization and Caritas of Austin often collaborated. Stasney said the Trump administration’s policies decreased the number and diversity of clients, but the organization does not expect to end any of its programs.

“It will only be us now, and it’s always better when you have multiple agencies collectively serving the population, but … we do have a diversity of funding to get us through some uncertain times like this,” Stasney said.

UT alumnus Van Truskett, who graduated in 1996, said she was helped by Caritas of Austin when her family came as refugees from Vietnam in the late 70’s. Truskett said Caritas of Austin provided her family a variety of services such as daily necessities, home settlement and job placement. Although she was six years old at the time, Truskett said she remembers feeling welcomed by the staff of Caritas of Austin.

“My successes in my life have to do with all the people who have helped me out along the way and that includes my interactions with Caritas,” said Truskett, director of the Technology Innovation Development program at UT. “Everybody needs to have that opportunity to play a role (in society), and that’s ultimately what my family and I wanted to do — to find a place to land and be a part of a community and be able to give back.”