Refugees in a "Bad Neighborhood" - A Campus & Community Partnership

Authors: Ali Schaeffing*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism, Geography Education
Keywords: refugees, intersectionality, neighborhood, service, community, culture, nutrition
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The West Hill area of Albany, NY is considered the city's "worst" neighborhood. Meanwhile, dozens of recently resettled refugee families are taking up residence in the readily-available low-cost housing. But without specialized and innovative support, layering this vulnerable population atop an already struggling community is problematic for both previous and new residents. In an effort to address this ongoing and worsening cycle, a small not-for-profit was formed: The Refugee Welcome Corporation. The idea is to rebuild an urban community in and through resettling refugees. It is a multi-sector approach to supporting these residents in their urban environment, while addressing the needs of the "community" at large. Faculty from Russell Sage College and other local schools have partnered with this non-profit, through a series of service-learning courses in geography, nutrition, sociology, urban planning, and health sciences. While working collaboratively with the refugee families to actively address needs, this research and teaching intersect across areas of transportation, housing, education, religion, race, and food. This unconventional "experiment" in urban geography is proving to have profound impact upon the neighborhood, students, and the academy. This work pushes us to grapple with what it means to truly and actually welcome the stranger, and how best to enact our moral, ethical, and political values in very real ways.

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