Practical solutions for helping refugees

With the war in Sudan, a continuing climate crisis, and now the Mexican border situation changing with the expiration of Title 42, the United States is faced with people in crisis. How do we help?

Note that I’m assuming we want to help. A segment of the population doesn’t view immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees with compassion. I’m writing for those who understand that people are fleeing war and other desperate conditions. It’s not their fault, and they need our help.

In fact, economically, the United States needs immigrants. The article “How immigrants are driving labor force growth, easing worker shortages and inflation” by Paul Davidson shows their worth. According to Moody’s economist Maris Dinatele, “Most of the growth we’ve had in the labor force has come from immigration.”

People not born in the US are 83% of the growth of the labor force. Overall, immigrants make up 18.5% of the work force. The article does caution that employers will still need to invest in training so employees can “upskill” or switch careers as the economy changes.

Like Americans, immigrants have different skill sets, so we can hire nurses, cooks, teachers, and pharmacy technicians. Have you been waiting in long lines recently? In the past two weeks, I visited a department store, a home improvement store, a fast food joint, and a pharmacy. Waiting in line was a practice in patience. I find it interesting that the people who complain loudest about waiting in line don’t understand that the workers are doing their best. With the addition of immigrants, we can fill the positions, and the complainers will have to choose a different topic.

Let’s say we decide that it’s important to fill open positions with immigrants. People will need help getting set up. One example is located in North Carolina.

In “North Carolina network turns unused churches into homes for refugees,” Yonat Shimron reports that unused Baptist parsonages are being re-worked into homes for refugees. The cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill have 12 churches working on this, and, when adding churches from Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas, that number jumps to 40. The congregations divide the work, such as prepping the house or working in the yard, and the families pay rent but not more than 30% of their income.

I visited the website The opening page is a Bible quote: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” On their page “What we do,” they state, “provide welcome” and “extend kindness” in addition to offering housing, including those who may be a different religion.

For these folks, their motivation may be religion; the effect is that terrorized people have a safe place to live after their worlds have been shattered.

With fewer small town Catholic parishes in Minnesota being able to find and support a priest, some of those old parish houses could be converted to housing for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.

Locally, Lutheran Social Services has a St. Cloud office that offers services to refugees. People can donate or volunteer.

People’s newsfeeds might be inundated with stories about the immigration crisis, and we might react with fear or indignation. We can discuss how policies need to change. Yet a better and more effective approach may be concrete action to “extend kindness.”

This is the opinion of Linda Larson, a St. Joseph resident. She is the author of "Grow It. Eat It," which won a national award, and "A Year In My Garden." Her column is published the second Sunday of the month; she welcomes comments at

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Practical solutions for helping refugees