How many refugees? Depends on who they are

The number of refugees that can be resettled in Warren County depends on who those refugees are.

A report commissioned by county officials estimates that anywhere from 50 to 80 Ukrainians could resettle to Warren County, though “accepting a moderate 20 to 60 refugees to start will allow the county to get a baseline for accepting more without compromising current residents’ needs.”

The analysis was completed by MCM Consulting and provided to the county in draft earlier this week.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said the report “gives us a starting point” and said that churches in the county are “off and going on their own.”

He said the report would be shared with the county’s ministerial association but that, as the county, “let’s not get in the way of something that’s working.”

Kafferlin said he met with the ministerial association and “everyone was there and engaged.”

The total number is shaped in the report by a litany of demographics and characteristics.

“The responses to those higher-level government officials are not just how many, but what is the breakdown or representation of 20 (to) 40-year-old females without children, 20 (to) 40-year-old women with children, 40 (to) 60-year-old women without and with children, and male and females over the age of 60 years old,” the report asks.

The report projects 15 to 50 refugees from economic and health care perspectives while 5 to 15 are recommended in the “religion” category, 50 to 80 when looking at public utilities and 15 to 25 when examining available housing.

“This is a critical resource and even nonprofits like Catholic Charities or Salvation Army will need advanced notice to set up temporary housing and support refugees until they can gain employment and support their own long term housing needs,” the report states.

The analysis also reviews educational opportunities for refugee students.

“One would think that with approximately 294 teachers, we can accept a high number of families with children to integrate into the public school districts,” the report states. “However, the question to be asked here is ‘how many interpreters can be hired or volunteer to translate for the Ukrainian children at each level of primary education?'”

The consultant recommends “under 5 to 10 Ukrainian students for initial acceptance with the true number based off translator to student ratio, rather than teacher to student ratio.”

While those ranges are somewhat nebulous, the study does pass a clear judgment where potential resettlement should occur.

“Since housing is a limited resource, it is recommended that resettlement be specific to Warren City and just its surrounding townships,” the report states. “The recommended communities to accept refugees are: Brokenstraw, Conewango, Glade, Pleasant, Warren City and Youngsville.”

“Several have come to Warren County independent of anything we’ve done,” Kafferlin said, working “through churches individually.”

He highlighted one caution — that Ukraine ranks high in years of life lost due to alcohol use.

“The rules related to drink driving in Ukraine are dramatically different than they are here,” Kafferlin noted.

Looking at the big picture, he said there is “no doubt we could take 15 people (which is) pretty close to what we already have frankly.”

He reiterated that the 50 to 80 range the report concluded could be achieved “without feeling much of a negative impact.”

With the educational component, though, Kafferlin acknowledged that organizers “can’t flood the school district with too many kids. It looks like 50 would be the comfortable max.”


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