Diaspora

Groups seek public's help for hundreds of Haitian families resettling in Boston – wgbh.org

As the year ends, a Mattapan nonprofit is scrambling for donations for around 650 Haitian families who arrived since March.
The Immigrant Family Services Institute is seeking help from the public in finding housing and basic needs for the families, who are arriving after an earthquake and political upheaval in their country. It’s no surprise that the immigrants are settling in the area. Boston has the third most concentrated Haitian population of any city in the country, and has welcomed the group for decades.
Dr. Geralde Gabeau, who leads the institute, said the organization’s needs are high as dozens more families are expected to arrive in January.
“So housing would be number one, access to legal services would be number two, and number three is really all the basic necessities that they need,” said Gabeau. “For example, right now, we have a lot of clothing, but we need utensils, beds, we need tables for people to eat at.”
Many families are applying for various types of immigration status so they can work and remain in the country legally. Others are exploring their legal options following being held at the border at detention centers. Gabeau said the Biden administration continues to deport many Haitian families and children, with flights leaving as recently as Wednesday. The ones that are sent to Boston, she said, are the “lucky ones.”
Gabeau said the Immigrant Family Services Institute found 75 housing units so far, each to hold three to four families. They’re looking for additional housing options for families and encourage anyone with an in-law apartment, extra space or extra home goods and furniture to give them a call.
The Rev. Laura Everett directs the Massachusetts Council of Churches, one of the organizations funneling supplies and money to IFSI. Five Haitian families welcomed new babies in December, and over 30 more are expecting.
Everett said a group of moms in Lincoln and Concord donated their own postpartum supplies. The council set up an Amazon wish list that includes underwear, formula, nursing bras and pads.
“Oh my gosh, you know, we need diapers for these new babies! It’s the story of Christmas all over again,” she said. “For unto us a child is born — maybe not in Bethlehem this time, but in Mattapan, and Boston Medical Center, at MGH, and Brigham and Women.”
IFSI recently held a baby shower for 40 new or soon-to-be parents, providing needed items such as clothing and car seats.
Besides nonprofits helping with legal aid, individuals are doing their part to help the immigrant families with their list of needs.
“We just tried to tackle a subsection of that — like household items, clothing, hygiene products — as things that would help our new neighbors get on their feet as they sort of acclimate to life in Boston,” said Audrey Seraphin, director of SPARK Boston, the mayor’s volunteer council for 20- to 35-year-olds looking to get civically engaged.
The drive is running through Friday, Jan 21, and the public can find collection bins on the first and third floors of City Hall. A recent haul included dish sponges, detergent, new mops, toys and household items Seraphin said are essential to setting families up.
Many of the recently arrived Haitians don’t have work authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services yet, and are looking for a few months of immediate mutual aid help to get on their feet.
“What is most flexible right now is money. The Haitian-Americans who run these programs really know what people need, and sometimes that’s money for heat or a medical bill,” said Everett. She said people who want to contribute can donate to IFSI, the Haitian Evangelical Pastors, Mass Council of Churches, catholic Charities, Jewish Family Services and other organizations directly involved with the families.
Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a budget that includes $8 million to be allocated for Haitian arrivals through nonprofits like IFSI, but it’s unclear when those funds will be dispensed.
Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual reporter for GBH News, and longtime Boston muckraker. She was a reporter for CommonWealth Magazine, and senior immigration reporter for Law360. She’s covered politics, immigration, incarceration, and health for The Guardian, DigBoston, The Boston Globe, and The Associated Press.

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