Nonprofit group creates program to help asylum-seekers start new life in New Jersey

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Some of Hudson County’s most vulnerable immigrants will soon have a safe place to sleep thanks to a new program that helps asylum-seekers settle into their new lives in New Jersey.

"All the people that we are encountering are trying to go through a legal process - they're trying to do this the right way,” says Courtney Madsen, founder of the nonprofit group Church World Service New Jersey.

Madsen says that her group is there to help people from around the world who are looking to start new lives in New Jersey legally by seeking asylum. She says the program helps immigrants find housing, employment and also works to get them adjusted to a new culture.

Church World Service New Jersey is also renting a home in Jersey City from St. Paul’s Church to provide temporary shelter to asylum-seekers, or those already granted asylum who may have nowhere else to go.

“Most people come here and they have a connection. They have a place to live. They may have brought savings with them to get by for a few months until they get work authorization,” Madsen says. “This is really for the most vulnerable cases who have run out of options."

Church World Service New Jersey works with people from more than 30 different countries. The people have all sought, or are seeking asylum out of fear of persecution back in their native countries.

“The basis for that persecution is very varied. It can be persecution based on their political opinion - they may have vocally opposed their home government which put their lives and families' lives at risk,” says Madsen. “Some of them, it was because of their membership in a particular ethnic group.”

The first residents will be moving into the home in Jersey City within the next few weeks. Madsen says that the three largest populations of asylum-seekers are from Turkey, Egypt and Cuba. But she says that the majority who need housing assistance are from Central America and West Africa.

More information about the program and ways to donate can be found on the Church World Service New Jersey's website.


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