Detroit’s international refugee haven spared fed cuts

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has restored funding to Freedom House, reversing an earlier decision and keeping the doors open at Detroit’s gateway for refugees.

Deborah Drennan, executive director of Freedom House, explained in an email Wednesday that ehe Department of Housing and Urban Development has restored funding to Freedom House.

Executive director Deborah Drennan said in an email Wednesday she isn’t sure of details, “as they said a letter will soon follow to explain.”

“Nonetheless,” she added, “we are overjoyed that we can continue to provide much-needed services to asylum seekers.”

A change in priorities at HUD had threatened to eliminate $390,000 of Freedom House’s $750,000 budget as of March 31, and potential closure was looming. Though it continued to aid current residents, it began turning away new asylum-seekers in February.

In its former convent in southwest Detroit, Freedom House provides shelter and services to men, women and children fleeing persecution, abuse or political turmoil in their home countries.

Founded in 1983, it has helped some 1,400 refugees from 74 countries in the past decade, according to program director T.J. Rogers.

Ultimately, Drennan said, 86 percent of the people who arrive on its doorstep are granted political asylum and 93 percent wind up in permanent independent housing.

By definition, however, its residents are impermanent, which put Freedom House at odds with HUD’s priorities in ending homelessness.

The HUD grants announced late last year had focused on programs involving permanent supportive housing for the disabled or mentally ill, and quick re-housing for those affected by hardship or calamity.

Drennan’s appeal pointed out Freedom House’s unique role and history of putting refugees on pathways to citizenship.

In its early years, most of its clients were from Central America. Now most come from sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East.