Albert Lea discussing resource center

Published 10:16 am Monday, January 12, 2015

ALBERT LEA — Discussions are ongoing about a possible resource center in Albert Lea for refugees and others moving to the city.

Though organizers initially hoped to have the center in the former Shell Rock River Watershed District offices in the historic portion of the Freeborn County Courthouse, those offices are now being utilized by another organization, said Ann Austin, executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.

“We’re very optimistic we’ll find another location within the next the month that will actually work out better for our needs,” Austin said.

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A resource center would provide information on how to obtain a driver’s license or bank account, how to apply for jobs, where to go to find housing, where to find child care and and other guidelines, to name a few.

The idea surfaced as there are now more than 350 refugees from South Sudan and Burma who have moved to Albert Lea in the last 10 years.

While there are many opportunities in Albert Lea, it is difficult for refugees to access them because of language barriers, the refugees told the Tribune last summer.

Austin said the Office of Refugee Resettlement will provide grant funding toward staffing the resource center, and there would be Karen, Sudanese and Hispanic representatives to help communicate, plus other volunteers to help people fill out applications.

“I’m really, really excited about it,” Austin said. “I think it would help resolve a lot of the issues we’ve been struggling with the last couple years.