Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
This young woman was displaced, not from an African refugee camp to a foreign country, but from a middle-class home to a life on the streets.
The struggle Veronique Moses faced was one against drugs and alcohol not against a system meant to rescue political refugees that, instead, ended up booting them from the only home they'd known in the United States.
Now the young woman has channeled her personal history into an odyssey to help refugees mostly children who've spent most of their lives in refugee camps navigate the daunting world of education, bureaucracy and Western culture.
"I've gone over the edge," Moses laughs. "It's my new addiction maybe."
It's a full-time obsession that taxes her energy and the patience of her husband and employer at times. All this in addition to her job as a production manager for Feature Films for Families.
But refugee advocates call her a godsend, and Moses' payment for her devotion comes with every visit to the home of little Zahara. The 2-year-old gallops to Moses, tucks her head under the woman's arm and murmurs, "I love you."
Life changed for Veronique Moses more than a year ago when her father told her a friend of his needed volunteers to tutor children from other countries.
Her affection and care for the children all of whom were relocated from Africa through the U.S. government's Refugee Resettlement Program was instant, she says. The few children she tutored at her home soon became a houseful, then she began helping the kids' parents, then cousins, then other relatives and friends.
"I can't describe the way I love these children," she says.
"Veronique is one in a million," said Merry Lee, who coordinates a pool of volunteers who help children read and do everything from running errands to helping refugees navigate the legal system. "If you didn't know her background, you would never appreciate what she's done and how much she gives to people who need her."
Moses has been sober for five years now, but she spent several years hooked on cocaine and heroin and living with other wayward young people on the streets of Salt Lake City. She stayed in Pioneer Park and seedy motels. She lived for drugs and couldn't quit. One day, when police pulled her from a trash bin downtown, she finally did.
"I am looking at this population, and I know what can happen," Moses says.
"If they don't have mentors, if they aren't taught how to be independent, if they aren't loved ...."
"In five years, we will see the crime population, the drug population, drug selling. It's all going to rise," she says.
A series of events last spring and summer threatened to allow scores of young refugees to fall through the cracks.
An apartment complex that had been home to hundreds of refugee families changed ownership, and a wave of tenants were displaced from their homes at 1700 South and Redwood Road because of higher rents, "nonrenewable" leases and policy changes at the property known as Hartland.
Calls to the apartment complex management were not returned, but refugee advocates estimate 60 to 80 percent of families were evicted or had leases that were not renewed.
Lee called the apartment owner's actions "heinous."
"It was despicable that in the name of profit they took away an immeasurable amount from people."
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