EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A new resettlement agency is working to make Eau Claire home to about 75 refugees from across the globe. World Relief, a Christian nonprofit resettlement agency, has opened an office in Eau Claire. The agency says bringing refugees into the Chippewa Valley will help with diversity, along with providing people in need with housing, medical care, and employment.

The organization connected with Eau Claire city leaders in the spring to determine if the city would be a good fit and now plans to welcome around 75 refugees this winter with the help of community partners like CVTC and helping new neighbors.

A public forum was held in Eau Claire regarding World Relief’s Efforts, which in turn caused a protest. First News at Nine’s Daniel Gomez shares some of the concerns community members have.

American flags and signs of protest against the idea of refugees coming to Eau Claire (were) found Monday evening. Protestors like Bill Utphall gather in front of L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, “My concern is that the law and policies weren’t followed.” Concerned with how World Relief Wisconsin is going about their mission to help refugees, “It doesn’t really matter to me where they come from. This was all done in a darkness. And they’re just trying to ram it through.”

And there’s Amanda Kohnin, who drove all the way down from Chetek. She says communities beyond Eau Claire could be impacted. Including her own, “When they bring people in, like, Eau Claire is the hub. They can relocate these people within a 100-mile radius of Eau Claire. Well, there’s already a housing shortage. I know several people looking for housing. They can’t find affordable housing.”

Community members showed up to the public forum hosted by World Relief Wisconsin. It gave them an opportunity to get answers from the organization on its mission to help out refugees by bringing them to Western Wisconsin. Director Tami McLaughlin, who oversaw efforts in the Fox Valley, says the concerns are being heard, “Refugees want to work. They want to establish and they want to do well. So, there may be some fears, and we feel most are unfounded. So, we don’t know if we will be allowed to be here or be invited to be here unless the government approves us.”

Back outside, Steven Goslin says, as a Native American, he does not understand the disagreement on having any refugee call the Chippewa Valley home, “They were all refugees at one time: the Germans, the Poles, everybody. And I think that everybody should be given a fair chance. I mean, this is America and it’s home.”

World Relief Wisconsin will be holding another public forum over Zoom next week.