One of Collington’s sibling communities in the Kendal Network has recently held up a beacon for the rest of us to follow.
We feel blessed to be a small part of the conversation related to refugee resettlement. As I’m sure you can attest, Kendal communities strive to put our deeply held beliefs into action each day and to foster inclusivity and diversity as intentional expressions of these values. This often leads us to consider the ways in which we can actively transform the experience of aging in community, on both a local and a global level.
At a fundamental level, Lathrop provides housing services for diverse groups seeking a place of refuge in which to engage with like-minded, value-driven contemporaries. Our inclusive environment speaks to the notion that for some who come to live at Lathrop, we are a place of ready-acceptance. We consider ourselves to truly be a safe haven.
At any given time we invariably have some unoccupied units (although our townhomes are generally 100% occupied), along with other property we own but currently do not lease, which led us to consider how we could bless others in need of transitional housing, such as homeless families and refugees.
Last year, Catholic Charities began the conversation around resettling refugees within the local community. The city of Northampton agreed to work with Catholic Charities to resettle 51 refugee families in 2017! Several of our residents subsequently joined the Circle of Care, a local volunteer cohort willing to come alongside refugee families to assist with starting anew; ESL classes, transportation, furniture, etc. Several housing providers met with the group to discuss options within the city.
It was at this point that I suggested that Lathrop might be of assistance. We have residents who teach ESL, one who speaks fluent Arabic, many highly-active caregivers and we have housing. We held a campus workshop to learn more about the resettlement process and to discuss the ways in which Lathrop could be involved. We initiated an evaluation of a home we own on an adjacent property and were not too far into our process when I received a call 2 weeks ago. A mother and her two adult sons had been cleared to arrive within days and none of the local housing options were viable due to the need for a handicapped accessible dwelling.
Unfortunately, none of our accessible apartments at the Inn were available but the next day, a resident who is co-chair of the city’s Circle of Care, asked if she and her husband could give up their townhome for two weeks and invite the refugee family to stay there, instead. A perfect solution!
I was able to offer this couple an Inn apartment and meals on our Easthampton campus and the refugee family arrived within days and settled into their “new community. ” They have been busy learning English and looking for permanent housing, with assistance from Catholic Charities and the Circle of Care. One son has even joined in with a group of residents that plays ping pong and billiards on Fridays. I am happy to say that the family will be staying for an additional two weeks but have since found suitable housing to begin the process of assimilating into Northampton.
I must share that this one small act of humanity has united our community in wonderful ways. It has reaffirmed for many that Lathrop/Kendal truly lives its values and is not isolated from global matters that matter most. We continue to dialogue around this and other areas in which Lathrop can have impact. In the coming weeks, once this lovely family has been resettled and begins to tell their story in more detail, Lathrop will also share it more broadly, with humility and gratitude to our residents who are truly the ones transforming the experience of aging for all who call Western Massachusetts, home.
What more is there to say?
Can we all try to find ways to “unite our [broader] community in wonderful ways?” Maybe the opportunity to experience an act of helping as a helper might covert some in the outside world who now fear such integration.