The Heartland Alliance denies allegations of problems and lack of translators
CHICAGO – A new report details mental health issues at the South Side shelter for Afghan refugee children.
Afghan children have begun arriving as refugees at the Heartland Alliance Shelter In Bronzeville, a former nursing home, in August – as the US began evacuations as it pulled out of the country.
Propublica Reports The mental health crisis inside the building in the months that followed.
In the past five weeks, there have been dozens of calls to the police — three for suicide attempts or threats, five for batteries or assaults, and two for mental health disorders, Melissa Sanchez, a ProPublica reporter, said.
“There are a huge number of incidents involving children showing suicidal thoughts or harming themselves, and harming others,” she said. The workers said to their managers, one by one, ‘I’ve never seen so much chaos, chaos and tension.’
Complex danger due to communication barriers.
“They never have in this building anyone who speaks Pashto or Dari, which are the two main languages the children speak,” Sanchez said. “So all of these things together were really amazing.”
Heartland Alliance program director Vanessa Eggs denies the claim.
“No, that’s not true,” she said. “We have over 30 different languages spoken at any given time.”
The shelter is one of four shelters in Chicago operated by the Heartland Alliance.
Eggs said Heartland is sheltering 78 Afghan children, most of them teenagers, in the four shelters. About 55 of them are at the Bronzeville site. They all had to leave behind families who had made sacrifices for their safety.
“I have kids whose parents threw them over fences, pushed them, or fought the Taliban to get them through the gate to get a seat on the plane,” Egges said.
It paints a picture of progress at the shelter – not a picture of chaos.
“We are working to help stabilize it and I think we will be good because even in this short time, the amount of children who have joined the program, we have seen improvements,” said Aegis.
“They’ve been handed a really complicated situation but at the end of the day, kids are getting hurt. Kids are suffering. Kids are suffering in this place,” Sanchez said. “And I think the American public should know that.”
The Heartland Alliance released a statement to WGN News that said in part:
Since the last Afghan humanitarian crisis began in August, we have provided evacuees with safety and stability upon entering the United States through resettlement services including housing, public benefits, employment support, and education. We have sought and received tremendous support from the local Afghan community and we welcome these newcomers. We are deeply honored to support this community as they rebuild their lives, and their gratitude for our sponsorship has been heartening.
We met with city and state partners to address significant systemic barriers to accessing psychological assessments for children requiring inpatient care. We are in regular contact with local hospitals and doctors to increase the limited support available. At the same time, we recruited a provider to start individual and group therapy for some young adults. We have also connected our Afghan youth with members of the Afghan community, offering in-person Friday prayers, weekly visits to the mosque and incorporating many cultural amenities such as youth-requested foods and activities.
The orphanage is located in the Bobby Rush Congressional District. WGN News has reached out to his office for comment. A spokesperson for Rush’s office is ready to help and has called on the Refugee Resettlement Office to help provide translators.
The full statement is as follows:
I am horrified by the recent reports of chaos and dysfunction at the Heartland Refuge. These children from Afghanistan have experienced unimaginable trauma, and the language barrier to communication between them and staff in the heart of the country is further exacerbating this trauma and confusion.
My office has arrived at Heartland ready to help. In addition, I call on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and Heartland, to intensify and increase their efforts to get interpreters on site, provide the necessary support to staff and children, and ensure that these children receive the mental and psychological care they need. Urgent need. Afghan refugees should not have received such a shocking reception in our nation. These kinds of undesirable conditions should stop.