by Adam Delezenne
It needs a lot of love, but soon it will be a place completely transformed!
Those of you who have been following us for a while have probably heard references to a house that we are renovating. No, we’re not getting into real estate. This is a home that will one day serve as our offices, program space and crisis housing for refugees and people seeking asylum.
The Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center has always operated without a central office. Thanks to our partners we have had ideal, community-centric spaces for our free legal clinics and meetings with clients. Our partners have provided us a platform to work for justice right in the midst of the Detroit area’s least served communities. Our three free clinic locations have made us the largest provider of free and low-cost legal services in the Detroit area. Having a home base will not change this.
The need for free and low-cost services continues to increase
At the same time, we have seen the demand for our services
The centerpiece and symbol of this growth is a home for our organization in Southwest Detroit. As a community partner with the Detroit Land Bank, we have purchased a once beautiful, three-story, 4700 sq. ft.
Once completed this space will serve us in three ways:
- Allow us to meet a critical need for short term crisis housing
The immigration system tends to create holes that immigrants are forced to fill creatively. One of the most challenging problems to solve is housing. Undocumented persons are unable to get federal housing assistance; at the same time, they are discouraged from leaving the region while their case is pending. This can take years. Our housing would be a safe place where families could land while figuring out more permanent options.
- Support our growing organizational capacity and staff collaboration
While we had only one person on staff, Executive Director and Principal Attorney, Kevin Piecuch, it made a lot of sense to work out of clinics and homes. We’ve already started to expand, bringing on a Legal Director and Director of Operations and Outreach. Our growing caseload needs space for secure storage and for attorneys to work together. Our continually growing community of volunteers needs space for training and collaboration.
- Enable us to serve our partners and clients with expanded programming
We are looking forward to being able to put on educational programming in our own space in the heart of Southwest. SWIRC frequently does “know your rights” sessions for our clients and educational programming on the challenges facing recent immigrants for our partners.
Completing Phase 1, Structural Rehabilitation
This is an exciting project for us. Accomplishing it is going to mean pulling together our whole community to help. Right now we are in the final stages of Phase 1 renovations. This has involved rebuilding much of the first floor and supporting beams. There was a large amount of debris inside the house plus what was created in the internal demolition. We are also replacing almost half of the roof to fix leaks and structural issues.
In the coming months look for ways that you can help and announcements on our progress. This is going to be an excellent resource for the community and make a big difference in our work!
The Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved communities in the Detroit area, with a focus on recent immigrants and refugees.
We were founded in 2014 by Kevin Piecuch, our Executive Director