Lima council responds to questions about Haitian community

LIMA — Lima Mayor Sharetta Smith gave a presentation addressing the recent influx of Haitian immigrants to the Lima community at Monday night’s city council meeting.

Smith shared facts about the Caribbean nation and outlined a plan for the city to address single-family housing rules while showing the new residents proper respect as neighbors.

“I’ve talked with mayors across the state, and we are all seeing an influx of Haitian immigrants,” Smith said. “We’re finding that this is connected to temporary agencies recruiting for jobs.”

Smith reported 550 applicants for federal and state assistance in Ohio identified as Haitian and shared numbers showing an increase in requests for Haitian Creole interpreters and in the tuberculosis tests standard for new arrivals.

“Many challenges faced by the immigrant community are the same challenges we face here in Lima,” Smith said. “Regardless of race or country of origin, we believe that all people should be respected.”

Members of council echoed her sentiments, with Todd Gordon calling for the community to continue welcoming newcomers.

“I’d like to remind everyone that this is a country we love,” he said. “Not everyone is welcoming people coming into this country, but we have to remember what it was founded on.”

Councilwoman Carla Thompson was emphatic in her sympathy for the population.

“If you are not Native American, then you are descended from an immigrant to this country,” she said. “There is a reason why they’re here, and they deserve the same dignity we do. Let’s make them part of the community and show them what it means to live in Lima.”

Smith also shared how the city’s police and fire departments have fielded calls regarding single-family housing violations and said the city’s solutions would have to address the systems fairly for all residents.

“I’ve been talking about and working toward improving the quality and quantity of housing in our community for over five years,” she said. “As we work to bring more houses online and we work toward more infill development, those are solutions to dealing with homeless issues, affordability issues and also the need for more market-rate housing.”

Lima’s Neighborhood Concerns Committee will meet April 29 in council chambers to discuss the definition of a family in the City Zoning Code.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.