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Gov. DeWine hosts summit on how Ohio will prepare for possible Ukrainian refugees

 A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces assists a woman to cross the street in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Andrew Marienko
A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces assists a woman to cross the street in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lead a summit in Parma Thursday focused on how the state will prepare for the possible arrival of Ukrainian refugees.

DeWine opened the event by condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it “horrific” and “barbaric,” adding that it “breaks my heart.” He also referred to the "long history in Ohio of welcoming refugees."

“Let me make it very, very clear to everyone. Ohio welcomes and will welcome any refugees who comes from Ukraine. We are a welcoming state. We're a welcoming people. We're a nation of immigrants. We are a state that was built by immigrants,” DeWine said.

Many of the attendees at the summit in St. Vladimir Grand Hall in Parma were members of the Ukrainian community who wanted more information on how to help. Parma is home to more than 4,000 people of Ukrainian descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

The summit brought together a number of refugee organizations from around the state including US Together, Global Cleveland and the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio. Panelists explained the process of refugee relocation, what is needed and how people can help.

Finding housing is the biggest obstacle for organizations helping to resettle new arrivals, said Heath Rosenberger, program director for Cleveland Catholic Charities Office of Migration and Refugee Services.

Organizations aiding refugees have been “priced out of many communities that we have traditionally resettled refugees in,” he said.

“Our search is also limited because we need to find homes that are on public transportation, and it can also be problematic to convince landlords to rent to refugees,” Rosenberger said. “Refugees don't have credit history. They don't have U.S. employment history. Sometimes their Social Security cards are delayed and the resettlement officers do not co-sign on the lease.”

Darren Hamm, the field office director of the Cleveland office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, echoed those sentiments, adding that 90% of the rental market locally and across the country is occupied.

“It puts us in a position where, in order to successfully resettle a family, that is one of the number one things we have to do,” Hamm said. “We get the notification, we have to secure housing. We've got to find somewhere that is safe and secure for them to reside, even if only in the short term. Ideally, that short term is for six months of their life here in Northeast Ohio.”

For now, it's uncertain when refugees would begin arriving. The United States has not granted refugee status to Ukrainians fleeing Russian attacks on their country.

The Biden administration has granted temporary protected status to Ukrainians who were already in the United States since the start of March.
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Jenny Hamel