Hartford Community Stakeholder Interviews Findings
Table of Contents
We conducted 14 individual interviews with community stakeholders who work for an immigrant-serving organization in the city of Hartford. Additionally, we hosted a group discussion with several of these community stakeholders which was included as another input in our coding data (n = 15). Each individual interview followed a semi-structure model in which the community stakeholder was asked questions regarding the interviewee’s background at their organization, the work their organization does to serve the immigrant community, their organization’s relationship with the city of Hartford, and potential models for Hartford to implement when considering city-sponsored immigrant services. The group discussion followed a similar model but was less structured, allowing for the conversation to flow into different topics.
Through our interviews, we created a codebook to code interviews based on 4 main themes: organizational needs, immigrant needs, issues with the city of Hartford, and overall communication.
The following table outlines the complete codebook:
|Collaboration||Organizations readily working together and with the Hartford government|
|Referrals||Referral from one organization to another to fill immigrant need|
|Website||A designated website that organizes various resources|
|Hotline||A number that one can call to obtain information or services specific to immigrants|
|Funding||Overall lack of funding which inhibits the organizations from adequate staffing and fulfilling their aim|
|Liaison||A designated position that would allow for coordination between organizations|
|Language access/cultural representation||Translation services, representation, and accessibility for diverse cultures|
|Language instruction||The need for ESL English classes|
|Transportation||Difficulties surrounding transportation in new environments|
|Digital literacy||Training and familiarization with technology|
|Healthcare access||Difficulties accessing health services and insurance|
|College preparation||Existent programs or need for programs which help immigrant children and students to access higher education in Hartford|
|Employment||Job preparation skills for workforce integration|
|Legal assistance||Need for low-cost legal services for navigating documentation and citizenship|
|Issues with the city|
|Trust||Lack of trust in city to maintain strong relationship with immigrant community|
|Undocumented status||Uncertainty of city being able to protect undocumented immigrants|
|Efficiency||Lack of efficiency in city government|
|Disconnection||Disconnection between city government and immigrant community|
|Sustainability||Ensuring the longevity and success of city services|
|Grassroots social network||Mutual aid model of a bottom-up organizational network|
|Relationship building||Organizations building bonds with clients to better serve them|
|Language barriers||Organizations facing language barriers when trying to outreach to immigrant communities|
Note: Only the most common codes are represented in this chart. To access the full frequency table, click here.
Discussion of Findings
Organizational Needs – Refers to the expressed needs of the immigrant-serving organizations interviewed in better serving the Hartford immigrant community. These needs were coded both based on the organization’s internal needs, as well as potential external needs from local government.
Of the interviews conducted, 14/15 referenced the need for funding for their organization (with a total of 65 total times coded), citing that lack of funding prohibits adequate staffing and hours and the organization’s ability to complete its mission. There were several mentions of organizations receiving funding through city-level grants but either not having the proper time to apply for grants due to existing lack of funding putting efforts into more actionable services and that “some [organizations are] competing for the same dollars”, potentially acting as a barrier to maximum collaboration among immigrant-serving organizations.
“There’s several different program ideas that we’d love to raise funds for, but I just don’t have the time to write the different grants we need to write.” – David MacDonald (Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association)
Collaboration was referenced in 14/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 61 times coded), with comments made about some specifically strong relationships between organizations and semi-frequent collaboration with the city of Hartford and the importance of collaboration to consolidate resources together and provide the most amount of help possible to the immigrants they serve. However, there were also with several comments made about the many barriers of collaboration, which mostly were centered around lack of knowledge of other organizations doing similar work to them and again, overall lack of funding.
“Our philosophy is that we all need to work together and collaborate together, because if we work together, it only benefits the people that we’re trying to help. It’s easy for us to work together because we’re a volunteer organization. But a lot of the nonprofits, they would kind of prefer to work in their own [spheres] because they’re all strapped for money.” – Carrie Berman (SAWA)
Referrals were referenced in 11/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 26 times coded), with comments almost unanimously valuing the need for the city of Hartford to help refer people to their organizations in order to receive assistance and the need for organizations to refer recipients to each other to best meet their needs. The main current barrier to referrals from a municipal level is the local government’s lack of understanding of the organizational services that are available in the city of Hartford. We found many examples of other organizations referring to each other, such as the Hartford Public Library being a key referral space.
“But also to serve as a referral network when it is beyond our ability. The times you have to just say, I need somebody else.” – Nancy Caddigan (Hartford Public Library)
Immigrant Needs – Refers to the resources and services most needed by the immigrants in Hartford, according to the community stakeholders interviewed.
Language Access & Cultural Representation
Language access and cultural representation were grouped together in our coding process since both refer to the need of a diverse team within immigrant-serving institutions in order to properly address translation and interpretive services, as well as immigrants being served by people who may be from an immigrant background themselves or of a similar ethnic background. This need was brought up in 13/15 interviews conducted (with a total of 38 times coded), with comments expressing lack of language access outside of Spanish overall and the need for more diverse teams on the organizational level.
“When I came here as a refugee, before I came to America, the biggest need or the biggest question that I was asking myself, being a young man. Where I’m going at the moment to find people that are speaking my language, that are in the same condition as me. And I think that’s what is the first need of immigrants and refugees, whether documented or undocumented.” – Anthony Tembera (Swahili Community Center and IRIS)
Issues with the City – Refers to the overall inconsistent relationship between community stakeholders and local government in Hartford.
In 12/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 31 times coded), there was an expressed disconnection between the Hartford government and immigrant community. This disconnect was primarily focused on how the city government isn’t familiar enough with the resources available to immigrants in Hartford and is overall too fragmented currently to properly address immigrant needs in their city. Specifically, stakeholders interviewed that are on the Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (CRIA) noted a disconnect both with the liaison assigned to work with CRIA and the municipal government as a whole, ignoring many of their recommendations.
“I’m on the commission … we just kind of do our thing. They don’t really listen to us. We wish that we had more of a presence.” – Carrie Berman (SAWA)
In 12/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 30 times coded), there was an expressed distrust of the local government in ensuring the safety of immigrants, distrust regarding the sustained service for immigrants due to frequent changes in government, and distrust in their established relationship with the community. Many stakeholders cited how one person working in city government could have been an amazing advocate for immigrants in Hartford, but once that person left, no one was there to fill that role, so that relationship is easily fractured. Furthermore, there was a general worry of how to bridge the gap of trust for those who are unauthorized, as they would be much less willing to step directly into a governmental space.
“I’m just envisioning this community member that has just recently got here. She’s undocumented. What makes her have trust in the city?” – Group Panel
Communication – Refers to the strategies used and barriers encountered by community stakeholders when communicating with immigrants in the city.
In 12/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 39 times coded), stakeholders cited how building genuine relationships with the clients they serve are crucial to best support immigrants. We found that these bonds best welcome newcomer immigrants to the Hartford community and bridge the gap between client and provider, building community.
“The whole purpose of [ANHA] was to get people in the neighborhood together to solve problems.” – Bernie Michel (Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association)
Grassroots Social Network
In 12/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 39 times coded), stakeholders cited the importance of a network of grassroots support that promote a bottom-up approach to immigrant services. Compared to a network centralized around a city office, some stakeholders saw the existing grassroots model as an effective way of providing the best services to immigrants in Hartford, particularly when it comes to how long governmental work takes.
“He’s done more, you know, in six months than the city could accomplish in five years. So I’m looking at these kind of grassroots organizations.” – Group Panel
In 9/15 of the interviews conducted (with a total of 22 times coded), stakeholders cited the importance of addressing language barriers when communicating with immigrant groups. We found that there is a large need for language services outside of English and Spanish, both within municipal government and organizationally. If the city wants to invest in providing better service to their immigrants, more emphasis needs to be put on addressing language access to less represented languages, according to the stakeholders interviewed.
“If they just came up with a hotline that was that had 15 languages spoken there.” – Group Panel
Through the process of qualitatively coding these interviews with community stakeholders, our team found that the current system of grassroots collaboration between organizations in Hartford is a strong one but could benefit from centralization and increased funding. While the city could fill that role of centralizing and financially supporting these services in Hartford, there is a general distrust and disconnection between the municipal government and our community stakeholders that must be addressed prior to the proposed development of a city-sponsored immigrant welcoming center. In order to properly address this gap, the city must work on building a stronger infrastructure (outlined in our recommendations) that ensures a sustainable model for immigrant welcoming in Hartford for years to come.