Recruiting Refugees as Team Members


Mike Helbringer, CEO for a 153-year old Assisted Living Community in Buffalo, had the traditional problems in finding qualified team members and had watched the number of senior living communities decline in his 22 years at Bristol Home. A few years ago, he was even approached about considering selling the building. It was through this conversation that he learned of a local organization that helps find and coordinate employment for refugees who are mostly from Ethiopia, the Congo or Iraq.

Unfortunately, Bristol Home closed in January, 2021, due to increasing financial hardships from serving a poor population, along with extreme challenges due to the pandemic.

The program now continues at their surburban community, Bristol Village, and they provide transportation due to the lack of public transportation options.


Helbringer had never hired refugees before and assumed there would be a number of hoops to jump through. However, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the process to hire refugees from other countries was the same as it was for American citizens. As a result, he reached out to the International Institute of Buffalo, who did the preliminary work of identifying possible candidates. and his staff determined who should be interviewed and those who were hired went through the Bristol Home, now Bristol Village’s, onboarding process. While initially he hired the new employees for laundry and housekeeping, he has begun employing them as personal care aides who do not require state certification. Right now, about a quarter of his employees are refugees. Interestingly, Buffalo did not have many organizations or companies who had appropriate for jobs for refugees, and so Bristol was an ideal placement.

Implementation Details:

  • Reach out to the local refugee organization in your community and tell them of your staffing needs
  • Work with the organization to identify potential staff to be interviewed and potentially hired
  • Proactively meet with current staff before bringing in new team members: communicate with managers that new employees members may need more training
  • Hire individuals who have at least some ability with English


Factors for Success

  • Find and partner with a local entity that works with refugees
  • Work with current staff – leadership and frontline – to ensure buy-in for the new recruitment program and respect and patience for the new hires



  • Bristol Village is now at full employment
  • Turnover and vacancy rates are both lower than before the program was started
  • The work environment has improved: with a source for more potential applicants, Bristol Village has been able to be more selective about new hires
  • Bristol has had an easier time filling vacancies


Need more information?

Contact Mike Helbringer, CEO, Bristol Village, at