Catholic-run home, serves unaccompanied refugee in Pennsylvania
The Archdioceses of Philadelphia opened its most recent residential youth facility, Blessed Oscar Romero House, a 12 bed transitional living home for unaccompanied refugees. One of the many ministries of the Catholic Social Services.
“These young men have gone through very traumatic moments in their lives to come to this country to enjoy what most of us have grown up with and enjoyed all of our lives,” Bishop John J. McIntyre told Catholic Philly upon the inauguration of the facility last May.
Named after Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating mass in El Salvador, the house opened in a collaborative effort by the Catholic Social Services and the Lutheran Children and Family Service.
In the past the house had been used before by Catholic Social services to serve youth in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, but this is the first time it has been used for immigrant youth.
“The history is really a little intertwined. St. Francis - St. Vincent Homes for Children has existed since the late 1800’s, they always provided housing for orphan children that didn’t have a home,” said Omar Alegria, director of Blessed Oscar Romero House.
According to Alegria, a lot of children were left orphaned because of violent situations in their home countries, and the Lutheran agency was able to get them over to the United States as refugees to help them integrate into society.
“It is very important [for the kids to feel safe]. They’re coming here and experiencing everything... it’s a huge adjustment, and it’s more complicated when you have to go through that even if you are a person that hasn’t necessarily gone through a lot of trauma,” Alegria said. “Now these kids have gone through trauma, they’ve lost family members and in some case some of them have been victims of human trafficking or gang violence in their home countries, and many of them have seen people get killed or violently assaulted. So that environment of safety is key to their adjustment once they get in here.”
Currently the facility is housing 10 minors between the ages of 13 and 18 from different countries around the world.
One of them is Kaleb*, a 17 year old from the Congo, in Africa. Back in 2013 he was separated from his family during the civil war in his hometown. Kaleb then fled to Kenya, only to be faced with gun violence and more civil conflict. He finally made it into the U.S. last December through the Lutheran agency.
Another young man affected by the civil war in Congo is Peter*, who has live in the house for the last six months. He said he feels very grateful for the opportunity and that he hopes to become an engineer in the future.
“Oscar Romero’s House has helped me a lot, with school, with everything I need, like work. If I need someone to take me to my appointment and if I’m sick we go to the doctor's, anything that I ask for if I need it, they will give to me,” Peter said.
To protect the identity of the refugee minors, names with a * were changed for privacy issues.