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Refugee Center Open House Will Shows Off Changes

Chris Bolt/WAER News

A center that helps refugees settle into Syracuse wants the community to know more about what they do and about the new Americans they help. The RISE center might have a few surprises. 

“The biggest myth, of course, that’s continually propagated is that refugees are just here to collect social services and basically feed off of taxpayers.”           

That’s one of the things Todd Goehle wants to clear up about the thousands of refugees who are resettled in Syracuse.  He’s associate director of RISE – which stand for Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment.  The mission is broader than the just Somali Bantu communities that used to be served at the location on Burt Street.  They’ve served resettled immigrants from 28 countries.  Goehle says that can be for housing or social services…and an important one, jobs.


“We try to assess their level of English and their language skills. We try then to help the client find a job. We’ll help them write resumes, basic job preparation. So soft skills, having your cell phone off, dressing the part for an interview. We’ll also do follow-ups, so we’ll talk with the employer if there are issues.”

And he says there are hotels and companies with custodial or manufacturing jobs ready to take workers – who need training and some language and cultural bridge.

“Employers are willing. I would look at it in two dimensions. The first is in terms of the quality of the employee. Refugees are hardworking, we can’t find them enough work. The other aspect is that employers are empathetic. We are seeing more and more employers in the community who want to help.”

Another goal of the center is to educate the community about the new residents here in Syracuse.  And Goehle has another perspective on helping refugees.

“We’re talking about human beings, just like everyone else. I would like to think that rather than seeking opportunities to help refugees that these are opportunities where refugees can meet quote-unquote Americans can meet, exchange and learn from one another.”

RISE holds an open house tonight/tomorrow night to learn about their services to help refugees settle – and about how the community can get involved.  It’s 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., 302 Burt Street.

More information about the center and the open house is at