250 Afghan refugees set to resettle in Charlottesville and Albemarle County
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville and Albemarle County are preparing to welcome 250 Afghan refugees in the coming weeks. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is helping resettle the families, but it is easier said that done.
“It’s not the way we normally plan refugee resettlement, but it’s an emergency,” IRC Executive Director Harriet Kuhr said. “This is a true emergency.”
The IRC has helped relocate thousands of refugees over the years, but they have never seen anything quite like this.
“I don’t think they’ve ever had to help so many people so fast, all at one time, in a short period of time. Two hundred fifty refugees all at once, in the middle of a COVID pandemic, in the middle of an affordable housing crisis, and an uncertain job market,” Charlottesville City Councilor Lloyd Snook said.
Finding permanent affordable housing is one issue as many of the refugees do not have a job, steady income, or even a social security number. But the more urgent issue, Kuhr says, is simply trying to find temporary housing.
“Now, we’re struggling even to find temporary housing, the hotels are filling up,” Kuhr said. “We’re only getting a couple days notice.”
“We are in an affordable housing crisis,” Albemarle County Supervisor Ned Gallaway said. “The big affordable housing crisis is not going to be solved over the next couple of weeks.”
Palwasha Mohammad Asif is a refugee from Afghanistan who resettled here and now attends Piedmont Virginia Community College. She says the language barrier was one of the biggest challenges.
“It was completely different from Afghanistan,” she said. “It was hard without knowing English, it was hard to go to college, to access to all the things that they were providing us.”
Gallaway wants people to consider the trauma they have experienced to get here, and lend a hand if they can.
“Lets not forget the amount of stress and trauma that they’re experiencing,” Gallaway said. “In the meantime, if you’re a landlord or you’re somebody that has a house or space available and can make that available to this effort, we need to hear from you.”
The IRC is expanding its sponsorship program so that people in the area can help out refugee families and teach them to adjust.
If your faith or civic group is interested in cosponsoring a family and you are within 100 miles of IRC offices in Charlottesville or Richmond, please review these materials to learn more, and contact Sponsor.VA@rescue.org to complete an interest survey.
IRC will be hosting several virtual information sessions in October. Email Sponsor.VA@rescue.org for dates and registration information.
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