Cleveland officials, organizations begin work toward immigrant support plan
More than 30 refugee and immigration service organizations met in Cleveland Wednesday to discuss better support for newcomers to the city.
Cleveland City Councilmember Jasmin Santana, who is the first Latina to serve on council and whose Ward 14 is nearly half Latino, convened the meeting at her Clark-Fulton office in response to growing calls for assistance in the community.
“I just get families constantly walking in, emails, calls, with the needs of housing and jobs,” she said. “It’s beyond my capacity.”
Representatives from Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration, several members of City Council and various immigrant support organizations discussed their services, as well as gaps that exist in the community. Top concerns included a lack of short- and long-term housing, economic development opportunities and education.
Wednesday’s meeting was the first step in working toward a comprehensive plan for supporting refugees, whose population continues to grow as thousands of people displaced from countries like Ukraine and Afghanistan come to the city.
“People care, people are doing the work, but the need is great,” Santana said.
Santana said the goal was to introduce the organizations to one another, see where duplicative efforts are being made and understand what needs still need to be addressed. She told Ideastream her goal is to create a monthly working group to begin drafting a citywide plan.
“We need to create a plan; the city needs to stop being very reactive to situations and really create a plan and be proactive,” Santana said.
Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne recommitted his plans for a countywide office for international services to help the area attract, retain and resettle immigrants. He told Ideastream he plans to have that created within a year, and found the meeting valuable so he could hear the needs and not duplicate services already being offered.
“We’ve got an opportunity to welcome the world to Cleveland, Ohio,” Ronayne said. “It’s what built Cleveland a century ago, and it’s what can build Cleveland in the next century.”