‘Getting them out of Afghanistan was the easy part’: Refugees struggle to find affordable housing in Charlotte

For some of those people, a new life would be here in the Queen City, but putting down roots has been harder than they may have expected.
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 7:03 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Thousands of Afghan allies to the United States fled their country in search of a new life after the war ended.

For some of those people, that new life would be here in the Queen City, but putting down roots has been harder than they may have expected.

That’s because of the shortage of affordable housing in Charlotte.

Hamid, a former interpreter for the U.S. military, got out of Kabul with his family at the end of August.

WBTV is only sharing his first name, to protect his family still in Afghanistan.

Hamid says they were able to escape thanks to Sean Kilbane, a veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan himself.

“Had to band together to do what the government should have done, getting our interpreters out before surrending them to death by the Taliban,” Kilbane told WBTV.

Kilbane works on the board of the non-profit organization Interpreting Freedom Foundation, which aims to help interpreters to freedom and helps them when they get here.

On Aug. 25, Hamid and his family made the dangerous journey to the Kabul airport.

“There were hundreds of people,” he said. “Me and my wife, we pushed ourselves into the crowd.”

He says marines on the ground spoke with Kilbane on the phone to ensure they could get out.

They first flew to Germany, then to Quantico, Virginia where they would stay for almost 2 months.

Now, they are planting roots in the Queen City.

“I’d never been anywhere outside of Afghanistan,” Hamid said. “Everything is different here for me. I’m looking for a job to support my family and stand on my own two feet.”

He’s grateful his wife can live freely without fear, and his children can grow up in America.

But there are still hurdles to overcome.

“To be honest with you, getting them out of Afghanistan was the easy part,” Kilbane said.

He said securing housing is tough.

“We have a lot of luxury housing which is inaffordable for these individuals,” he said. “They don’t have a job. They don’t have a social security card or a credit history.”

He’s calling on private landlords to step up and give families like this one a chance.

Hamid still has fears about his family left behind.

“I heard from a neighbor that two Taliban guys came by on motorbikes looking for me,” he said. “People told them ‘he already left.’”

Now they are looking forward to a brighter future.

“I’m so happy with my family in America,” his wife said.

To learn more about helping the Interpreting Freedom Foundation, click here.

The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charlotte has also been working to resettle refugees for more than 40 years.

So far they have resettled 96 Afghan refugees, with 18 more arriving Tuesday evening. They are planning for a total of 200.

According to the Diocese, 44 are in hotels and 57 are in temporary housing.

They are looking for rental units with one to three bedrooms that cost no more than $1,100 per month. They will sign their own leases and Catholic Charities will prepay rent for one to three months or more depending on the size of the family.

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