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Catholic Charities hoping to house hundreds of Afghan refugees in Charlotte

Right now, Catholic Charities is preparing for 200 Afghan evacuees to arrive in Charlotte. The problem is, they’re scrambling to find homes for them.
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:46 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 1:49 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s not something you would think of putting together: the end of the war in Afghanistan and Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis.

But – the two are being tied together.

Right now, Catholic Charities is preparing for 200 Afghan evacuees to arrive in Charlotte. The problem is, they’re scrambling to find homes for them.

Rents are going up, and availability is tight. Part of it is because many homes for rent are now corporate-owned. Their policies make it harder for a newcomer to our country to get a lease.

Sandy Buck heads the Catholic Charities refugee resettlement program here. She desperately needs your help finding places for these people to live.

Jamie: Do you know when refugees will start arriving?

Sandy: We have evacuees from Afghanistan that we expect to start arriving in mid-October.

Jamie: As things stand right now. If they start arriving by mid-October, do you have a place to pull it up?

Sandy: We have no housing. None. So, we are desperate right now for the community to step up and help us. There’s a housing crisis nationally, and it’s very bad in North Carolina. We’ve got possibly 200 Afghan evacuees coming to Charlotte, on top of the 400 refugees that we’re expecting this year. Carolina Refugee also has 100 evacuees and 300 refugees. So, we’re talking about 1,000 souls that need a home and we cannot locate affordable housing. We’ve been resettling in Charlotte for 40 years. We have a whole group of landlords that have always rented to us in the past. It’s been no problem. When we have an arrival, we just call them up and there’s a unit. Right now, there are no units available. There just are no units available.

Jamie: How stressed out are you?

Sandy: We’re getting pretty stressed out. We’re bracing for the influx. We are actually currently having a little refugee surge right now. We’ve got probably 35 refugees in September that have arrived. Luckily, we’ve managed to find housing for all of them, but I think we’re tapped out. I’m not really sure what October is going to bring. Housing is the first core service we provide. We secure the apartment before the family even gets off the plane. Now, we’re not certain that we’re going to be able to do that.

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

Sandy: We’re actually branching out. We’re looking at all kinds of different options that we’ve never had to look at before: transitional housing, possibly hotel stays. The problem with that is the families come with a very small amount of resettlement funds that they need to start their new life here. And we can go through that in a week or two in a hotel.

Jamie: Explain what they’re going through, sort of physically and mentally arriving in a new country. As you mentioned, with just very few belongings?

Sandy: What we’ve found over the last 40 years is this: most of them are very resilient. Our goal is early employment for self-sufficiency. By and large, by six months, they are self-sufficient. They’re paying their own rent, they’re repaying their travel loans, and they’re learning their English, and they’re transitioning to life in the United States. We get them employed right away. We have a lot of employers that we’ve worked with over the years, former refugees working there that maybe speak the language and have helped make that transition. A lot of our refugees lived in camps their whole life. They’ve seen incredible things that we can’t even imagine. But they’re very resilient and they’re strong, they overcome it. We’re there to support them when they need it. And their communities do rally around them.

Jamie: Back to this issue of housing. Obviously, it’s an ongoing 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’m just hoping that anybody who’s hearing this that can help us will reach out. We are at a loss to even figure out where to find them. I think, for us, private landlords are easier to work with because we have the added issue of trying to rent an apartment before the family comes, we don’t have a social security number, we can’t do a background check. We don’t have a credit history. We need the apartment first. We furnish it, we pick them up at the airport and bring them there and then we take them in to sign the lease. So, we’re having a harder and harder time. Some of these corporate owners now can’t really bend to that, whereas, in the past, the private landlords were more willing to work with us on our unique issues. We need manpower. We need furniture and household items. We’ve got a lot of people who are stepping up to help but I just keep going back to the fact that a couch won’t help me if I have no apartment to put it in. So, I really, really need housing.

If you want to help, call 1-800-227-7261 or email info@ccdoc.org.

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