Residents, council members discuss Burmese resettlement

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For nearly 30 years, Burmese refugees have been escaping persecution in their home country. Thousands have come here to Fort Wayne, and a lot have resettled on the Southeast side of the city.

Now, the councilman who represents the 6th district wants to open more discussion about how the resettlement is going. Councilman Glynn Hines started the process by hosting an open, public discussion about the resettlement process and neighbors’ concerns Tuesday night.

Hines held the discussion after some of his constituents came to him with concerns about how the Burmese population is assimilating to American culture. Hines said some concerns he’s heard from residents about their Burmese neighbors are lack of lawn care, littering and painting their homes unusual colors.

Catholic Charities, which resettled some of the local population, said the organization has a 90-day period with refugees talking to them, among other things, about assimilation. They were at Tuesday’s meeting to answer a lot of questions. The organization said a lot of the concerns brought to the table are things they’ve never heard.

Area neighborhood associations and neighborhood code enforcement were also part of the discussion where all agreed residents must be good neighbors and help teach their refugee neighbors.

Hines said it takes time.

“Catholic Charities has got to stay in touch with these individuals on a [regular] basis,” Hines said. “You can’t learn the American acculturation in 90 days or a year of five years. It takes a long period of time.”

However, several neighbors came to the table and said they’ve helped their neighbors all they can, and the behavior repeats itself. They were looking for help from city and social agencies.

Those in the Burmese community said some of those coming over have never lived in a house before. Most have lived their whole lives in refugee camps. So, things we take for granted are things they are learning from scratch. However, community members said the biggest challenge is the language barrier.

Hines said he wants to do follow-up meetings at the quadrant level and at the neighborhood level. Catholic Charities also showed interest in being part of those follow-up meetings.