1. Language and Education:
- Limited English proficiency and adult illiteracy underscore the first culture shock immigrant and refugees face as they reach the end of the long journey to their adopted country. Language barriers and a lack of cultural sensitivity are contributing factors to many misunderstandings that lead to misperceptions and antagonistic attitudes.
- There continuous to be difficulty within the immigrant and refugee community on the issue of education for both children and adults. For some member of the African community the difficulty of education can be connected to the lack of educational opportunities at refugee camps. For the Latino community, lack of documentation eliminates the possibility of attending universities or attaining a higher education. For both communities the enrollment process can be a challenging experience due to the insensitivity and lack of knowledge of school administrators. For all immigrant and refugee communities adult literacy is still a major challenge.
- Most immigrant families arriving in the city are large compared to the mainstream American households. The average household size of an African or a Latino family is eight. Most apartment complexes are of two, or at most, three bedroom designs. Availability of affordable housing with four or five bedrooms is very limited in the city and competition for these houses is intense and not limited to immigrant families. A large influx of secondary immigrants are arriving in the city and the shelters are not equipped to assist or accommodate these new arrivals.
- An alternative affordable housing solution is needed to identify the nature of the housing problems. Together with CMHA, Columbus Apartment Association, developers, financing and mortgage companies we are exploring new and innovative ways for solving the long term housing needs of the Somali population. The new American Initiative Program is currently working with the board of realtors, CMHA, Urban League and other community based organizations to organize a housing symposium to address the above mentioned issues. In order to improve homeownership among Muslim immigrant communities, the city continues to attract mortgage and financing companies that specialize on mortgage and financing methods that are Islamic Sharia compliant.
- There are reports of abuses and fair housing violations in areas where there are high concentrations of Immigrant and refugee residents. Together with the department of Development, Code Enforcement and the community, we are developing strategies to ensure landlords and property owners to comply with city codes and fair housing laws.
3. Health Issues:
- Many new Americans arriving in the city are mostly from third world countries. These new communities are hampered by lack of vaccination for children, poor health habits for the elderly and lack of awareness for the need for health screening. On the other hand, restaurant businesses in the immigrant communities are booming and need training in food safety, health and fire hazards. The Latino health forum was held in May and a Somali health forum is planned in November. (See annexed document for timelines).
- The new American Initiative is working with Neighborhood Health Centers to increase awareness and encourage screening for STDs, Tuberculoses, breast cancer and colon cancer.