Chapel Hill Selected for Grant to Help Newcomers

The Town of Chapel Hill has been selected for the next round of local government partnerships with the statewide Building Integrated Communities (BIC) initiative. The two-year BIC project in Chapel Hill will work to engage refugees and and other foreign-born residents in local government and civic participation.

Through its collaboration with BIC, Chapel Hill will collaborate with a diverse group of local residents and organizations to increase understanding of local foreign-born, refugee, and Hispanic/Latinx populations and develop projects to support their full integration with the larger community. The statewide BIC initiative is a program of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Latino Migration Project and is supported by a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Beginning this spring, Town of Chapel Hill staff will begin working with BIC program staff to engage residents, stakeholders, and community organizations in the early stages of this community planning process.  The project will last for two years, during which time the Town of Chapel Hill will receive research, facilitation, technical support, and project coordination from BIC program staff.  At the end of the project period, there will be stronger relationships between local government, community organizations, and foreign-born residents, as well as consensus-based strategies and projects underway.

Chapel Hill and Siler City were selected as part of a competitive application process for the BIC initiative’s third round of in-depth, multi-year partnerships with local governments.  Other communities that have previously partnered with the BIC initiative include Greenville, High Point, Sanford, and Winston-Salem.  As a result of their participation, these communities have developed effective, locally-relevant action plans, new resident advisory boards, and other service initiatives to engage refugees and immigrants in local government and civic participation.

Town Manager Roger Stancil notes that the project aligns closely with the vision set forth in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, Chapel Hill 2020, and builds on our efforts focused on collaboration and innovation.

“The central vision set forth in that plan is Chapel Hill as a ‘Place for Everyone,’” Stancil said. “By deeply engaging refugee and immigrant populations in this project, we can truly achieve that vision for our community.”

Orange County has experienced an influx of immigrant and refugee populations over the last several years, though it lacks complete population data that accurately captures in- and out-migration patterns of immigrant and refugees. According to Census data, there are about 18,000 foreign born residents of Orange County, 13 percent of the total population. Data from the American Community Survey indicates that Chapel Hill has the highest concentration of Asian foreign born (13.8 percent), whereas neighboring Carrboro has the highest concentration in the county of Hispanic/Latino/a (13.8 percent). Over the past seven years, the county has received 50 to 80 refugees per year, primarily from Burma, though in the past couple of years more refugees are arriving from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Town Manager Stancil said that Town staff are eager to get started and more information will be coming soon about how local residents and community can participate.  “We will need participation from a wide variety of stakeholders and residents, who will be central to the project’s success,” he said.

Assistant Director of Housing and Community Sarah Viñas will serve as project lead.   For more information about  the statewide BIC initiative, please contact BIC Research and Program Manager Jessica White at Jessica.White@unc.edu. Information about the initiative, past partnerships, and the Latino Migration Project can also be found on UNC-Chapel Hill’s website: http://migration.unc.edu/programs/bic/

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