Catholic Social and Community Services, Inc. (CSCS) appreciates the recent interest in its Migration and Refugee Center in Biloxi. Before now, many people did not know the program existed, although it has been in operation for decades. In the last several days, there have been inquiries about whether the agency will or will not participate in the resettling of Syrian refugees. In a statement released Monday, Nov. 16, CSCS stated that it will answer the call to serve. However, we do not know if we will be called upon to assist Syrian refugees find assistance and a home in our community. We have received no notification that any refugees from Syria will be resettled in our area.
The refugees for whom CSCS typically receives referrals are under a Family Reunification program, which means they must have a family member sponsor their arrival in the area. We are not aware of any community members pursuing reunification with a family member from Syria. We are monitoring Gov. Phil Bryant's decision and awaiting word from the USCCB regarding any potential Syrian refugees we may be tasked to serve. The notification of an arrival happens months before a refugee arrives, and again, we have had no referrals from Syria to this point. We continue to resettle refugees from other countries as we always have. Many of the refugees we resettle provided valuable assistance to our government and were being persecuted for their assistance.
When we resettle a refugee from any country, we are tasked with helping them find housing, employment, and to begin creating a new life as members of our community. Most of the refugees we resettle find employment and become contributing, active members of the community within a few months of arrival.
Resettling refugees is not the only work that our Migration and Refugee Center does in the community. This office also assists victims of trafficking to find safety and justice and provides English as a Second Language and GED classes. We help those striving to become citizens of our country apply for and obtain citizenship, and we celebrate with them when they take the oath for our country. They learn not only about their rights as new Americans, but also their obligations. The importance of hard work and self-sufficiency is stressed, and we assist our clients in finding work to provide for their families. Local courts, judges, law enforcement, jails, and hospitals count on this office to provide translations and interpreting, ensuring that individuals whose primary language is not English have the ability to understand and be understood.
This is just one of many programs that Catholic Social and Community Services, Inc. of the Diocese of Biloxi quietly operates in the 17-county service area of South Mississippi. CSCS's Twelve Baskets Food Bank provides the food distributed from the soup kitchens and food pantries in the eight Southern counties of Mississippi. Twelve Baskets has distributed 2,262,699 pounds of food in the last year. The Diocese also sponsors eight housing complexes for seniors on fixed incomes and provides social service coordinators to help the residents with their needs.
Three community outreach centers are available to meet the varying needs of our neighbors. The centers served 5,766 individuals with case management, budgeting, and goals in the past year. They also provided 2,335 families with $482,126 in direct financial assistance, helped keep 18 pregnant women housed and provided 694 families with food. We conducted 318 pregnancy tests, encouraging these women to choose life for their unborn child, and proved our commitment by providing 1,476 infants with basic items such as diapers, formula, beds, and car seats.
The Disaster Relief and Recovery program assisted with long-term recovery for those who experience a manmade or natural disaster. In the past year, we provided $28,000 directly to those affected by tornadoes, fires, flooding and other disastrous events. Staff also deploy nationally to help those in need. We have represented the Gulf Coast by working disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the Tuscaloosa, Ala., Joplin, Mo., and Moore, Okla. tornadoes.
We are honored to provide these services and answer the call to serve the most vulnerable and in need. Again, we appreciate the interest in our agency and the passion for this issue. We welcome the public to peacefully visit any of our offices to see what we do in the community every day. We also welcome any help that you may be willing to offer at any of our programs. Volunteers are always welcome. Feel free to contact us at 228-701-0555 if you would like to help us minister to those in need.