Mobility resources are no help to residents afraid to leave their homes for fear of deportation. Recent immigrants, asylum seekers, and undocumented persons, in particular, are among the most vulnerable residents in the Detroit area. Southwest Detroit has the largest concentration within the city of such persons. We want to see a Southwest Detroit that welcomes recent immigrants and connects them with opportunities--opportunities to live, work, and build a life.
The work of the Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center in this community for the last five years places us in a unique position. We serve hundreds of these most vulnerable persons every year. At the Ford Resource and Engagement Center in Southwest Detroit, we help meet their legal needs, which include resolving their residency status, finding safe places to live, and earning income to start a new life in Detroit. Each of these presents a unique challenge. Our legal services program has been extremely successful in helping this population, but there are very few resources for housing and employment.
We offer our clients the possibility of unlocking the freedom they should be experiencing in Southwest Detroit: the freedom to move openly in their community, the freedom to take part in community events and access community services, the freedom to pursue the normalization of their legal residency status without fear that asking for help will end in their deportation.
To help address this, we are proposing two new programs.
Transitional Housing for Asylum Seekers. Housing is a foundational need, but due to their residency status, undocumented persons and asylum seekers are unable to take advantage of traditional housing assistance. They cannot be the beneficiary of any federal funds; any program that receives HUD or federal support is restricted from helping them. This means they are excluded from almost all housing supports presently available. Recent immigrants will be able to stay in our housing for up to a year as they build community connections and establish themselves in the area.
Small Business Incubator for Recent Immigrants. Many recent immigrants do not have the authorization to work, but anyone can own a business in the United States and receive profits from it. Small Business ownership represents an avenue to generating income and creating a life that is uniquely beneficial for our clients. We will offer coaching, workspace, office resources, and help in securing funding. We plan to work with local partners like ProsperUs Detroit to leverage their proven program for assisting people in taking the first steps toward starting a business and supplement with our services.
The Ford Resource and Engagement Centers are the ideal space for our free legal clinics, but to help with housing and income-generation, we need our own space. We have purchased a building in Southwest Detroit from the Detroit Land Bank. It is the ideal space for both housing and a small business incubator, but it needs a significant renovation to become a viable program space. Our plan would see the top two floors turned into apartments capable of housing up to four small families. The first floor and basement would be dedicated to a shared work environment for our incubator clients, educational program space, as well as offices and secure storage for our legal work.