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Afghan Refugees in U.S. Struggle to Find Permanent Housing

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MeNine months have passed since 22-year-old Khadija, her 14-year-old brother, and 32-year-old cousin fled the Taliban takeover in their native Afghanistan. After a short stay in Qatar and Germany, I arrived in the United States in late August.Like many Over 74,000 Kadiya, an Afghan refugee who settled in the country last year, is now safer, but she faces new, towering challenges. Nationwide Housing crisis..

Upon arrival, Afghan refugees receive housing and basic necessities assistance through a local resettlement agency for at least 30-90 days. This includes approximately $ 1,200 per person as federal “welcome money.” Khadija asked TIME to refrain from her surname for safety reasons as her family still lives in Afghanistan, and Khadija decided to spend most of her cash on her daily necessities rather than her rent. became. “At that time, we were humans, so we needed money. We needed clothes and food,” says Khadija.

Afghans in the United States can also apply for Temporary Assistance for Poor Family (TANF) benefits and food stamps if they meet income and other requirements. But for many Afghans struggling with trauma, navigating the bureaucratic process to profit can be a maze. Resettlement may help individuals access these benefits, but the high case load and limited funding mean that each family can always spend a lot of time. Not limited. And some experts say it’s not just enough money.

“Federal support isn’t enough to cover the basic problem,” said Boston University’s assistant professor of sociology. Shelter: How the State Shapes Human Potential.. “Forks are coming to this country and they are caught up in a safety net that is inadequate and underfunded.”

The local church promised to cover the $ 3,000 monthly rent for Kadiya and her family in Gaithersburg, Maryland in June and July, but lived in an apartment after the rental support ended. It’s expensive to continue. Khadija, who hasn’t found a job yet, knows they have to leave. But she doesn’t know where they are going.

It is a big challenge that many Afghans arriving in the United States as part of last year’s influx are struggling to overcome. Thousands of Maryland refugees, Iowa, When Michigan Reportedly still Live in a hotel.. Resettlement says, “We have a shortage of staff, we are overwhelmed, and we are having a hard time finding affordable homes.” Dr. Nadia HashimiA member of the board of directors of the Afghan American Foundation, he worked with the families of Afghan refugees for months in a psychological support program. “The financial support they get for their homes is temporary and in a relatively short amount of time they need to take over their rent payments, so they need to get up and find a job.”

The fact that the United States couldn’t find a stable home for the refugee population and it helped create it deserves further scrutiny, Gowayed says. It also raises questions about what Afghanistan should be allowed to expect from their new home, she added. “What happens is that people are expected to be recognized and thankful for living the American dream,” she adds. “Accepting people to poverty in America is not a salvation for anyone.”

A State Department spokesperson said in an email statement that the federal government is actively working to identify affordable homes, but acknowledges the difficulties.

“In addition to housing shortages, many refugee resettlement institutions, medical facilities, and community organizations that support resettlement are also understaffed,” said a spokesman. “Temporary accommodation was often needed for a period of time until permanent housing was secured.”

Unique challenges

To find a home, not only prepaid the security deposit and an additional month’s rent, but also present the required documents such as credit score, previous employment history, co-signer, and work permit and social security number. It comes with the unique challenge of having to. This is a requirement that new entrants to the United States may lack or need extra time to secure.

Some individuals and organizations have intervened to help families cope with complex rules. Over the past few months, Mutaz Momand, a consultant to the United Women of East Africa Support Team, who emigrated from Afghanistan to the United States in 2014, made his name as a co-signer or rental property and then handed it over to about 12 people. It states. Afghan refugees arriving at the latest waves. “I’m human, I can’t see these people suffering, and I can’t see that there’s no one to help them,” says Momand. But he is worried about financial responsibility, saying “it’s a big responsibility”.

5ive Pillars, an Afghanistan-led community group in Northern California, is willing to avoid some of these traditional requirements and actively encourage real estate managers, landlords and developers who are willing to rent real estate below market prices. looking for.

Even if the family finds a place, their struggle often continues. Zuhal Bahaduri, co-founder of 5ive Pillars, has some people resettled at home after rental support has expired. “The resources they receive (from the government) do not really correlate with living expenses in California.” For example, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego is $ 2,390, according to the rental platform. It increased by 32.8% in 2021 and then in 2022. Zamper..

Nationwide, rents are rising at Fastest rate in decadesPrices for one-bedroom apartments increased by an average of 12% between March 2021 and March 2022. The impact was felt nationwide, but it is especially serious in the following big cities: New York, Miami, San Diego, Boston..

read more: The crisis in Afghanistan and Ukraine showed how the United States could rebuild its refugee system

Zalmina lives with three children in a two-bedroom home in the city of Martinez, Northern California. She says her resettlement now covers her $ 1,800 rent. “I’m really stressed because I don’t know when rental assistance will stop,” Zarmina told TIME in an interview interpreted by Farkhanda Omar, a staff member of 5ive Pillars. (Zarmina asked TIME to refrain from her name for safety reasons because she still has a family in Afghanistan.)

Zalmina says she speaks little English and doesn’t know how to get a job. She is busy caring for her children and doing household chores. Without using her car, she goes to school for her 12-year-old daughter for an hour one way. Her husband and 4-year-old daughter are still in Afghanistan. After the grenade injured the child, they were separated at Kabul Airport. Zalmina is still distraught from separation while her daughter is physically recovering. “My daughter often cries and asks,’Mom, where are you?'” She says.

Sahar Yasir, 34, and her husband, more than 500 miles south of El Cajon, California, face similar challenges. The couple and their three young children arrived in San Diego County on May 1 after receiving a special immigrant visa.

So far, they have secured an apartment for $ 2,500 a month. But that was after a friend of the same complex intervened on their behalf and persuaded the landlord to pay a $ 3,000 deposit because he didn’t have a Social Security number. That same friend lent them the money and deposits of the first month. Without a job, they don’t know how to figure out the money they need to pay their rent next month, and they haven’t received formal rent assistance yet. Yasir, who was working on development at USAID, says the couple ran out of all their savings after the Taliban hijacked Afghanistan and lost their jobs. “I’m thinking of people who don’t speak English, people who don’t know anyone here. What problems do they have?” Yasir says.

Finding a job quickly is not always feasible for evacuees. Returning to Maryland, Khadija submitted multiple posts at a retail store. She doesn’t have a car and has few public transport options, so she’s within a 30-minute walk from her home. So far she hasn’t done anything. She also sent at least $ 400 back to her home to her parents who did not have her job.

In addition to the logistical task of achieving the goal, Khadija and her brother Mujtaba are working on trauma.As a former member of the Afghan army and part of the Afghan minority Hazara communityThe Taliban and ISIS have been brutal for years — Kadiya fears the safety of her parents and two siblings remaining in Afghanistan. When they flocked to Kabul Airport on August 18, turmoil broke out with thousands of Afghans. A hand bomb exploded, injuring her brother Mujitaba’s leg and separating her from her parents. They later boarded the plane without them.

For now, Khadija is focused on building Mujtaba’s life in the United States, but she also can’t stop thinking of families going home and longs for ways to make them safe. doing. “My situation isn’t good right now and I don’t know what to do or how I can help my family,” she says.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor ([email protected]).

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