Town Welcome Center

The Basic Idea:

Help your community grow and thrive by creating a space and/or resource to connect new residents with culturally competent services, resources and opportunities.

How it works:

  • Establish a place in town for welcoming incoming residents whose cultural background(s) differ(s) from the native population.
  • Welcome Center staff stay abreast of population shifts and research how to best support new neighbors.
  • Welcome Center staff connect newcomers with the resources they need to adjust to their new homes and become economically self-sufficient.
  • Welcome Center workers provide community-wide cultural education to promote acceptance and bridge potential cultural barriers. (This could take place in schools, local businesses or other community locations.)

Who Does It?

  • Anyone who is a stakeholder in the community, i.e. businesses, non-profits, local government, community leaders and other residents in the area.


  • New residents get the help they need to thrive and contribute to the community as consumers, entrepreneurs and taxpayers.
  • Cultural education creates an accepting community environment where newcomers and native populations learn from one another and work together.
  • Communities can create a welcome center using resources (people, space, services) they already have.
  • Easing the transition for incoming families makes them more likely to stay in the area, preventing population decline.


  • One size does not fit all. A successful Welcome Center tailors its support strategies to fit the unique needs of each incoming population. This requires:
    • Frequent and thorough research on who your new neighbors are and how best to support them
    • Strong connections with community organizations and agencies that provide services new families may need
  • Potentially high-cost/volunteer-intensive. Staffing the Welcome Center and offering more extensive resources (such as offering basic personal care items to meet immediate needs for families in transition) can make a welcome center expensive to maintain.
  • Population shifts can be a challenging adjustment for communities. Supporting new neighbors in a respectful way requires culturally competent workers who can lead the community in tactfully navigating cultural and language barriers.

Simplicity Index

Tough at the Start—But Fruitful! This can take a lot of work to set up, but good models are available. Investing in newcomers yields high returns, and over time, it becomes second nature!

Quilt It

Examples and Resources

The Austin Welcome Center, a nonprofit founded in June 2000 in Austin, Minnesota, combines economic self-sufficiency programs and community-wide education to get newcomers off to a great start. Click here to learn more:

RuFES is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.
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