Catholic Charities hopes to house hundreds of Afghan refugees in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Not something you’d think of putting together: the end of the war in Afghanistan and Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis.

But – the two are linked together.

Currently, Catholic Charities is preparing for the arrival of 200 Afghan evacuees in Charlotte. The problem is, they scramble to find them accommodation.

Rents are increasing and availability is tight. Part of the reason is that many houses for rent are now owned by businesses. Their policies make it more difficult for a newcomer to our country to obtain a lease.

Sandy Buck is the head of Catholic Charities’ refugee resettlement program here. She desperately needs your help to find housing for these people.

Jamie: Do you know when the refugees will start arriving?

Sandy: We have evacuees from Afghanistan who are expected to start arriving in mid-October.

Jamie: In the current state of things. If they start arriving in mid-October, do you have a place to wind them up?

Sandy: We have no accommodation. Nothing. So we are desperate right now for the community to step up and help us. There is a nationwide housing crisis, and it is very serious in North Carolina. We have maybe 200 Afghan evacuees arriving in Charlotte, in addition to the 400 refugees we are expecting this year. Carolina Refugee also has 100 evacuees and 300 refugees. So we are talking about 1,000 souls who need housing and we cannot find affordable housing. We have been relocating to Charlotte for 40 years. We have a whole group of owners who have always rented us in the past. This was no problem. When we have an arrival, we just call them and there is a unity. Currently there are no units available. There are simply no units available.

Jamie: How stressed are you?

Sandy: We get pretty stressed out. We are preparing for the influx. We currently have a small wave of refugees right now. We have probably 35 refugees in September who arrived. Fortunately, we managed to find accommodation for each of them, but I think we are exhausted. I’m not really sure what October will bring. Accommodation is the first basic service we offer. We secure the apartment even before the family gets off the plane. Now we’re not sure we’re going to be able to do it.

Jamie: What will you do if you don’t have space available immediately?

Sandy: We are in the process of diversifying. We’re looking at all kinds of different options we’ve never considered before: transitional accommodation, possibly hotel stays. The problem is, families come in with a very small amount of relocation funds that they need to start their new lives here. And we can go through that in a week or two in a hotel.

Jamie: Explain to them what they are going through, in a way their physical and mental arrival in a new country. As you mentioned, with very little property?

Sandy: What we’ve seen over the past 40 years is this: most of them are very resilient. Our goal is early employment for self-sufficiency. Basically, at six months, they’re self-sufficient. They pay their own rent, they pay off their travel loans, they learn English, and they move on to life in the United States. We use them immediately. We have a lot of employers that we have worked with over the years, former refugees who work there who may speak the language and who have helped make that transition. Many of our refugees have lived in camps their entire lives. They have seen amazing things that we cannot even imagine. But they are very resilient and they are strong, they overcome it. We are there to support them when they need it. And their communities are rallying around them.

Jamie: Let us come back to this question of housing. Obviously, this is a constant problem in the community. We can’t just wave a wand, I guess, and make it go away. What can people do to help you right now?

Sandy: Right now, I just hope anyone who hears this and can help us get in touch with us. We don’t even know where to find them. I think for us it is easier to work with private owners because we have the added problem of trying to rent an apartment before the family arrives, we don’t have a social security number, we don’t can’t check the background. We have no credit history. We need the apartment first. We provide it, we pick them up at the airport and bring them there and then we take them to sign the lease. So we are living in increasingly difficult times. Some of these business owners can’t really come to terms with this anymore, whereas in the past private owners were more willing to work with us on our unique issues. We need manpower. We need furniture and household items. We have a lot of people stepping up to help, but I always come back to the fact that a sofa won’t help me if I don’t have an apartment to put it on. So I really, really need housing.

If you want to help, call 1-800-227-7261 or email [email protected]

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