As a high school student, Jack Knott traveled to the border with a group of young people, led by Fr. Corey Brost, CSV. The trip was meant to help these students learn more about the asylum process.

Jack Knott, wearing a cap, with students at the border in 2018

The journey made such an impact on Knott that he began to volunteer at Viator House of Hospitality, started in 2017 by Fr. Brost and Br. Michael Gosch, CSV, as a safe home for young immigrant men seeking asylum. Knott eventually served as an intern there through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.

At the University of Notre Dame, Knott majored in biology and minored in Poverty Studies, which asks students to examine poverty, social injustice, and oppression through research. This month, Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns shared some of Knott’s research in a news story, entitled: Undergrad research shows understanding trauma key to developing better solutions for those seeking asylum.

“Thank you to former college intern Jack Knott for focusing his final research paper at Norte Dame on how the Viator House model responds effectively to the trauma experienced by young asylum-seekers,” Fr. Brost said on social media.

In his research, Knott describes what he calls, a triple trauma paradigm. It starts with the trauma at home that prompts asylum seekers to flee, advances to the trauma they experience on their journey, and ultimately the trauma of being placed in federal custody. In response, he points to Viator House of Hospitality and how its staff utilizes a holistic approach that recognizes the toll placed upon these young men through their experiences.

As part of Fr. Brost’s biannual trips to the border, students retrace migrants’ steps.

Specifically, Knott, describes how Viator House has built its work around trauma-informed care, ensuring things like safety, community, and an environment that centers hope alongside resources such as career development and case management.

“An understanding of neurobiology and trauma provides an argument for why we should reevaluate the current policies in place,” says Knott, who will graduate May 20, “that exacerbate the trauma asylum seekers have faced, and it offers insight into interventions that are needed.”

Ultimately, Knott credits Viator House with providing a hopeful model for how the U.S. could better welcome traumatized individuals coming to this country seeking legal relief.