Local non-profit attempts to help refugees settle in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - As the numbers of refugees from around the world continue to grow here in the United States, Georgia - including the Savannah-area - is also seeing that increase.

We reported last week about an area business collecting donations for a local refugee relocation program and that got a lot of you asking questions and offering feedback on social media.

There are currently a little more than 50 Syrian refugees alone here in Savannah, the majority women and children. That's up from around 17 back in June.

The images that continue to come out of places like Syria paint a clear picture why the people who once called the country home, are trying to get out. According to the U.S. State Department, 50 Syrian families were displaced every hour from their homes over the last five years.

"They really don't have the option to go back. This is home," said Brian Flood, administrative director of the non-profit Hope Academy Savannah.

Flood and his wife, Heather, are co-founders of the Hope Academy in Savannah. The relatively new non-profit specializes in adult education, helping develop literacy, teaching English as a second language and achieving a GED. Their focus is on refugees resettling in Savannah.

"The students we see are families. And they are all people who really have the same hopes and dreams I have for my own children," said Heather Flood.

The Flood's explained once families relocate to America, the clock is ticking on getting a green card and applying for citizenship, both happening within five years. Refugees are also assigned a Social Security Number and are being trained to go into the workforce when they arrive, so the hunt for a job can happen soon after.

"They want jobs for themselves, and they're ready to be part of their new home," said Heather.

Brian admits the fear some Americans have about refugees coming here is very real.

"There are no words I can say, there are no actions I can take to 100 percent assure somebody of anything, honestly. What I do suggest, create that relationship. And that's why we do what we do. That's why we invite our volunteers to come and get to know somebody. It's amazing what you're not afraid of when you finally get to experience it," Brian said.

The Flood's did tell me there's a cap on how much money each family gets to start their new lives, for things like security deposits on an apartment, and that money has to be paid back.

Here's some recent information from the State Department on the number of Syrian refugees in both Georgia and South Carolina. There are now 506 refugees state-wide in Georgia, with 53 in Savannah.

In South Carolina, there are 47 refugees. All located in Columbia.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement inside the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides information and links for refugees seeking medical assistance and other services.

The Lutheran Services of Georgia's Refugee Services also provides multiple services to "help them become economically self-sufficient, socially integrated and culturally acclimated."

The LSG provides services in Atlanta and Savannah.

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