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Mosaic Q&A: Jeri Stastny of Cornhusker Place

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

For the past two and a half years, Jeri Stastny has been a case manager at Cornhusker Place at 721 K St., in Lincoln, which provides such services as civil protective custody, voluntary medical detox, psych respite, short-term residential treatment and intermediate residential treatment (long-term treatment). She can be reached at 402-477-3951 or jstastny@cornhuskerplace.com.

Jeri Stastny says the most common question she gets from refugees is usually about how to obtain some kind of verification. / Photo by Charlie Litton

How do you help refugees? 

Refugees often come to us through law enforcement contact into civil protective custody when their intoxication has become a threat to themselves or to others.  I personally help refugees who are participating in either of our residential treatment programs.  My typical work with refugees includes helping them connect with Department of Health and Human Services programs (such as food stamps or Medicaid), assisting them with requesting financial assistance/forgiveness on medical bills, and assisting them with obtaining their USCIS documents or other documents such as state IDs and Social Security cards.

What is the most common question you get from refugees? (And how do you answer it?)

The most common question I get from refugees is usually about how to obtain some kind of verification, whether it be a state ID, an employment authorization, permanent residency, or a copy of their I-94.  I usually answer the question by accessing the USCIS website and calling USCIS if needed.

What is the most difficult part of your work?

The most difficult part of the work is navigating immigration laws because there are all kinds of different laws depending on the country of origin and the status of the client (such as immigrant, refugee, or asylee).  The solution or answer for each client’s issue might be totally different even though their question is the same, depending on these factors.  Additionally, it is very costly for refugees and asylees to obtain needed documentation, and the paperwork to complete is difficult to understand even for a native, English speaker.

What does the wider community of Lincoln need to know about refugees?

The wider community needs to know that the reason why each refugee is here in Lincoln is different for each person, and that there should be some cultural sensitivities in place.  People are often here for safety and for improved lives, but cultural differences sometimes lead people to have a hard time adjusting, and homelessness and substance or alcohol abuse often will occur.

What does the refugee community need to know about Lincoln?

I think the refugees should know that Lincoln does have some resources to help meet their needs, and that they do not have to find themselves culturally isolated.

If you could offer refugees new to Lincoln only one piece of advice, what would it be? 

I would encourage all refugees (especially if they find themselves homeless) to try to secure their immigration documents in a safe place, and to try to understand and follow the immigration guidelines based on their status of being a refugee.  Without these documents, it is virtually impossible to work (which means it is difficult to secure housing and basic needs).


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