Today, County Legislator and Mayoral candidate James Sheppard rolled out “Rochester Welcomes,” a plan for the City to take a leadership role in welcoming refugees, coordinating services for them, and supporting the transition to their new home.
“Refugees will help get Rochester working again,” Sheppard said. “We have already seen the impact they’ve had in helping us rebuild neighborhoods, supporting the local economy, and bringing vitality to our community. They do this with very little support from City government or other agencies. Think of the potential they would have if they were truly integrated into this community.”
Pointing to communities like Utica, New York and Dayton, Ohio, Sheppard outlined a plan that will include:
- A Refugee Liaison, a top-level staff person in the Mayor’s Office who will advocate for refugee issues with the City, County, State and federal governments; seek funding; and lead the effort to coordinate volunteer organizations and faith groups who want to support Rochester’s refugees;
- Support centers in targeted Recreation Centers (i.e., Edgerton and Frederick Douglass/South Ave.) to provide English lessons, assistance with green card and citizenship applications; job training; and space for refugee agencies to provide services;
- A top-down review of City departments to determine steps necessary to ensure services are accessible to refugees;
- All City informational materials will be translated into the five most commonly used languages among our refugee communities, and translators provided at public meetings.
Sheppard was joined by Uttam Gajmer and Bijaya Khadka, Rochester residents and refugees from Bhutan, who spoke about the desire of refugees to contribute to the community and the challenges they have faced in making the transition.
“Now more than ever,” Sheppard said, “we need to do all we can to support people who have risked everything to come here and make Rochester their home. I look forward, as Mayor, to rolling out the welcome mat!”