The Refugee Services of Texas office, 4200 South Freeway, helps refugees settle in Fort Worth. Housing is arranged for clients. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Unable to raise needed funds to continue to operate as a non-profit, Refugee Services of Texas will permanently close its seven offices in Texas after 45 years as a social service agency dedicated to refugee resettlement and serving victims of human trafficking.

All current refugee clients are being overseen by other existing refugee resettlement programs in Texas or national refugee agencies.

“It is with heavy hearts that we have come to this decision,” said David McKeever, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas. “This agency has faithfully carried out its mission to serve vulnerable populations since its founding in 1978 and has touched thousands of lives along the way. This decision was not made lightly. The Board carefully examined every option and took crucial steps in the weeks leading up to this decision in an attempt to recover RST’s remaining operations after severe budget shortfalls, but we are now forced to close our doors.”

Refugee Services of Texas announced on May 10 that the agency would undergo restructuring to account for severe budget shortfalls by taking steps that included dramatically reducing staff, closing offices in Fort Worth and Houston, and pausing refugee resettlement efforts for 120 days. Unfortunately, the drastic measures were not enough. The closure will affect about 150 employees.

The agency’s remaining refugee clients at its offices in Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio are being referred to the state’s other existing refugee agencies or to national refugee agencies. RST employees in those locations may be eligible to receive employment opportunities from those existing refugee agencies.

RST’s human trafficking program – Survivors of Trafficking Empowerment Program (STEP) – based in Austin, Harlingen, and Houston will be permanently closed, affecting a total of seven employees in those locations.

RST’s Austin location will now be directly overseen by Episcopal Migration Ministries, which is the national refugee resettlement agency operating in Austin.

The Amarillo and Dallas offices will be managed by the national refugee agency Church World Service.

Refugee clients at the San Antonio office are now being overseen by other refugee resettlement agencies working in the city.

In total, Refugee Services of Texas served 976 refugee resettlement clients between Oct. 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023.

RST has always been a regional affiliate agency of national refugee resettlement agencies that has relied on the support of ordinary, compassionate Texans since its founding in 1978. Whereas agencies with a national footprint are able to draw from resources from across the United States, RST did not have deep pockets and could not overcome its financial situation to re-emerge in a stronger financial position as was previously hoped.

“We wish to thank all of our employees and the thousands of supporters and volunteers who have helped Refugee Services of Texas touch so many lives over the years,” said McKeever. “We urge them to continue this important work and find ways to volunteer at other resettlement agencies who will certainly need their help.”

Said Omar Khan, Chair of the RST Board of Directors: “Despite the heartbreaking loss all of us feel at the closing of Refugee Services of Texas, all of us are extraordinarily proud of the legacy we leave. Since its founding in 1978, RST has successfully resettled more than 26,000 refugees.”

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