DETROIT – Imagine your life being at risk because of your political beliefs, sexual orientation or nationality.
That is the real-life threat for people in countries around the world -- and they’re finding refuge right here in Detroit.
Local nonprofit Freedom House Detroit is helping people seeking asylum from countries, where their lives were in danger, to find freedom and independence in the U.S.
“It fills my heart!” Freedom House Detroit CEO Deborah Drennan said of their work. “For me, it’s a sign of humankind.”
The nonprofit helps individuals from all over the world who are seeking refuge in the United States because they were forced to flee their country due to persecution and torture.
For decades, people have been escaping from countries all over the world, including from the regions of Africa, Central American and the Middle East, to name a few. Those seeking safety in the U.S. often come with very little, sometimes with just the clothes on their back.
Drennan says Freedom House Detroit serves as a temporary home and a lifetime home for asylum seekers.
“First, in welcoming them, we make sure they have food and clothing immediately,” Drennan said. “Basic needs first. Get them feeling like they’re calm. Then, as they’re coming into the organization, they meet with our lawyer and she will then (assess if) they really have an eligible claim.”
Freedom House Detroit helps asylum seekers learn English and find services like medical care, therapy, legal aid and eventually find work. The nonprofit’s overall goal is to help asylum seekers become self sufficient and to no longer live in fear.
“(The asylum seekers experience) nightmares day after day of having to relive the trauma, so getting them to see a therapist is really important,” Drennan said.
“There are cases where people were denied entry into the country or deported and within hours they were murdered,” she added.
Drennan and her team have worked tirelessly to provide a safe house for these asylum seekers where they can enjoy freedom. After years of helping those who have escaped their to make a home here in the United States, Drennan’s work has come full circle.
“Now, I’m seeing on social media stories where (asylum seekers) have gone on and gotten professional degrees in the medical field, and engineering,” Drennan said. “And then I see their children are here! We helped them get their children here, and then their kids are graduating from college.”
It’s can be hard to understand how people are being persecuted, tortured or killed for their beliefs or lifestyles, given the freedoms we have in the U.S. -- but that’s why Freedom House Detroit exists.
Visit Freedom House Detroit’s website here for more information about their work and how you can help.