Refugees across Roanoke will soon get financial help they need to apply for citizenship.
Roanoke based Freedom First Federal Credit Union applied for and won a grant for its American Dreamer Loan project from Opportunity Finance Network. It beat out other Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) nationwide to get the $100,000 NEXT Seed Capital Award.
Dave Prosser, Vice President of Community Development for Freedom First explained the Seed award is for an institution that wants to create a new project or program to implement in a community that targets an under served community.
Freedom First came up with the idea to help local immigrants and refugees in Roanoke. It's an area Prosser calls "a hot pocket" for a lot of refugees. They've resettled in this market for a number of different reasons, he says.
They are in need of loans to help pay for all they need to apply for citizenship. "We know there's a good population of individuals here," he said. "A lot of those have been here for a number of years and many don't have the means to become a citizen because the process and cost can be very lengthy and challenging to someone. So we know there was a need."
The cost for naturalization services can reach up to $5,000.
Freedom First will work together with Commonwealth Catholic Charities to develop the parameters of the American Dreamer Loan program. Together they hope to help 30 individuals and families in the first 12 months and go up from there.