Lutheran Social Services Reorganizes to Meet New Demands

Source: Living Lutheran

After more than 102 years of continuous existence, the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced the North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to reorganize itself as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).

LIRS is one of nine nationwide nonprofit resettlement agencies affiliated with the ELCA that has historically worked through partner agencies—oftentimes Lutheran social service organizations—to help resettle refugees.

According to LIRS vice president for programs, Lee Williams, “When [LSSND] had to make the decision that it was going to stop serving the refugee and immigrant communities in North Dakota, it was an opportunity for us to expedite the process of establishing a field office…Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota was the only resettlement agency in the state, so its closing really would have a huge impact on resettlement.”

Working with the State of North Dakota to maintain service levels to immigrant and refugee communities, many former employees were absorbed by the state department of social services that took over many of the cases involving families and resettlements.

“The state stepped in and said they were going to assume these programs to ensure there isn’t a lapse in service for folks who are in the communities until another provider is identified,” Williams said. “LIRS established its field office in Fargo, and the state has been incredibly supportive of our work.”

Currently LIRS North Dakota is providing services for the “reception and placement” period, which encompasses the first 90 days of an individual’s or family’s arrival in the United States. This phase includes getting people set up with Social Security, enrolling kids in school, and helping adults integrate into the community with job placements, health screenings and English as a second language services.

The state of North Dakota has assumed responsibility for the second phase of support which can last up to five years after someone’s arrival and focuses on employment and self-sufficiency.

One employee expressed gratitude for the state stepping up to make sure there was no fall in the quality of service, while also remarking, “We hope we can be stood up again as we were under LSS, with a few changes.”

As LIRS continues to organize itself for a sustainable future, we can celebrate that the most vulnerable among us who need services will still be able to find care.

Source: Living Lutheran