June 15, 2011 at 4:23 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
U.S. gov’t awards $250K to create LGBT refugee resource center

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced that it has awarded $250,000 to a Chicago-based human rights organization to create the first-ever resource center supporting the resettlement of LGBT refugees in the United States.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Administration for Children & Families at the Department of Health & Human Services, gave the $250,000 contract to the Heartland Alliance of Chicago to create a training and technical assistance center for LGBT refugees.

Administration for Children & Families Acting Assistant Secretary David Hansell said the Obama administration awarded the contract to eliminate the violence and discrimination faced by LGBT people across the world as part of its effort to promote comprehensive human rights.

“As many of these refugees left their homelands specifically because of persecution related to their LGBT status, it is particularly incumbent on us to provide a safe and welcoming environment,” Hansell said.

The focus of the center will be to provide capacity development in key resettlement locations; sensitivity training to network staff, including overview of key issue regarding newly arriving LGBT refugees; technical assistance for service delivery; and the development of best practices and orientation materials for refugee service providers across the country.

ORR Director Eskinder Negash said the creation of the center is necessary because the existing resettlement network for refugees has limited understanding of the LGBT community.

“In addition, no information exists in the context of available resource materials specifically for LGBT refugees,” Negash said. “The need for these services is critical to ensure their successful resettlement in the [United States].”

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, praised the Obama administration for awarding this grant to facilitate the resettlement of LGBT refugees.

“This is a very welcome development,” Bromley said. “Several of the leading human rights and refugee support organizations in the country have been pushing for just this sort of dedicated support for LGBT refugees.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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