Afghan Refugees in U.S. Battle to Discover Everlasting Housing


It has been 9 months since 22-year-old Khadija, her 14-year-old brother and 32-year-old cousin fled the Taliban’s takeover of their house nation of Afghanistan. After temporary stays in Qatar and Germany, they arrived within the U.S. in late August. Like most of the greater than 74,000 Afghan evacuees who settled within the nation final 12 months, Khadija is safer now, however she faces a brand new, towering problem: discovering a everlasting place to remain throughout a nationwide housing disaster.

Upon their arrival, Afghan evacuees obtain help for housing and fundamental requirements by way of native resettlement companies for a minimum of 30-90 days. That features roughly $1,200 per particular person in federal “welcome cash.” Khadija, who requested TIME to withhold her final identify for security causes as a result of she nonetheless has household residing in Afghanistan, ended up spending many of the money on every day necessities, not hire. “At the moment, we would have liked the cash as a result of we’re human. We wanted garments and meals,” Khadija says.

Afghans within the U.S. can even apply for Non permanent Help for Needy Households (TANF) advantages and meals stamps in the event that they meet revenue and different necessities. However for a lot of Afghans who’re wrestling with trauma, navigating the bureaucratic course of to acquire advantages generally is a maze; resettlement companies generally assist people entry these advantages however with excessive caseloads and restricted funding, they’re not all the time in a position to commit massive quantities of time to every household. And a few specialists say it’s simply not sufficient cash.

“The federal help is solely inadequate to cowl any of the essential sh-t,” says Heba Gowayed, an assistant sociology professor at Boston College and writer of Refuge: How the State Shapes Human Potential. “People are coming into this nation, and so they’re getting caught in a poor and defunded security internet.”

Whereas an area church has dedicated to masking Khadija and her household’s $3,000 month-to-month hire in Gaithersburg, Md., for June and July, it’s too costly for them to proceed residing within the residence as soon as their rental help ends. Khadija, who has but to discover a job, is aware of they should depart. However she doesn’t know the place they may go.

It’s a significant problem that many Afghans who arrived within the U.S. as a part of final 12 months’s inflow are struggling to beat. Hundreds of evacuees in Maryland, Iowa, and Michigan are reportedly nonetheless residing in motels. Resettlement companies are “brief staffed, overwhelmed, and struggling to search out reasonably priced housing,” says Dr. Nadia Hashimi, a board member of the Afghan-American Basis, who spent months working with Afghan evacuee households on a psychological help program. “The monetary help that they’re getting for housing is short-term, and so in a comparatively brief period of time, they should get on their ft and discover a job, as a result of they’re going to should take over paying that hire.”

The truth that the U.S. is unable to search out steady housing for a refugee inhabitants that it helped create deserves extra scrutiny, Gowayed says. It additionally raises questions on what Afghans ought to be allowed to count on from their new house, she provides. “What occurs is that persons are admitted and so they’re anticipated to be grateful, to stay the American dream,” she provides. “Admitting individuals into American poverty is nobody’s salvation.”

A State Division spokesperson mentioned in an emailed assertion that the federal authorities has been actively working to determine reasonably priced housing however acknowledged the difficulties.

“Along with a housing scarcity, there may be additionally a staffing scarcity at many refugee resettlement companies, well being care amenities, and group organizations that help resettlement, the spokesperson mentioned. “Non permanent lodging has usually been obligatory for a time frame, till everlasting housing will be secured.”

Distinctive challenges

Discovering housing comes with distinctive challenges: fronting a safety deposit and extra month(s) of hire, in addition to needing to point out a credit score rating, earlier employment historical past, a cosigner and required documentation comparable to work permits or social safety numbers—all of that are necessities that newcomers to the U.S. might lack or want additional time to safe.

Some people and organizations have stepped in to try to make it simpler for households to take care of the sophisticated guidelines. Over the previous few months, Mumtaz Momand, a marketing consultant at United Ladies of East Africa Help Group who moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan in 2014, says he has put his identify down as a cosigner or rented properties to then go on to a few dozen Afghan evacuees who arrived in the newest wave. “I’m a human being and I can’t see these individuals struggling and that there’s nobody to assist them,” Momand says. He does, nevertheless, fear concerning the monetary legal responsibility, saying that “it’s an enormous duty.”

5ive Pillars, an Afghan-led group group in Northern California, is actively on the lookout for property managers, landlords, and builders keen to bypass a few of these extra conventional necessities and hire properties at beneath the market charge.

Even when households discover a place, their struggles usually proceed. Some are resettled into houses they will’t afford after their rental help expires—requiring them to depart or face potential eviction, says Zuhal Bahaduri, co-founder of 5ive Pillars. “The assets they’re receiving (from the federal government) don’t actually correlate with California’s price of residing.” For instance, median hire for a one-bedroom residence in San Diego is $2,390—up 32.8% in 2022 from what it was in 2021, in response to rental platform Zumper.

Nationally, hire has been rising on the quickest charge in many years; costs for a one-bedroom residence have risen a mean of 12% between March 2021 and March 2022. The results have been felt throughout the nation however notably laborious in huge cities comparable to New York, Miami, San Diego and Boston.

Learn extra: The Afghan and Ukraine Crises Confirmed How the U.S. Can Rebuild Its Refugee System

Zarmina lives with three youngsters in a two-bedroom home within the Northern California metropolis of Martinez. Her resettlement company is at the moment masking her $1,800 hire, she says. “I’m actually stressed as a result of I don’t know when the rental help will cease,” Zarmina tells TIME in an interview interpreted by a 5ive Pillars employees member Farkhanda Omar. (Zarmina requested that TIME withhold her final identify for security causes as a result of she nonetheless has household in Afghanistan.)

Zarmina speaks little English and says she doesn’t know the way she would go about getting a job. She’s busy taking good care of the kids and doing family chores. With out a automotive, she walks her 12-year-old daughter an hour to and from college every method. Her husband and 4-year-old daughter are nonetheless in Afghanistan; they had been separated on the Kabul airport after a hand grenade injured the kid. Whereas her daughter has bodily recovered, Zarmina continues to be distraught from the separation. “My daughter cries rather a lot and asks ‘mommy the place are you?,’” she says.

Over 500 miles south in El Cajon, Calif., Sahar Yasir, 34, and her husband are dealing with related challenges. The couple and their three younger youngsters arrived in San Diego County on Might 1 after receiving a Particular Immigrant Visa.

For now, they secured an residence that prices $2,500 a month. However that’s solely after a buddy in the identical complicated intervened on their behalf, convincing the owner to allow them to pay a $3,000 deposit as a result of they didn’t have a social safety quantity. That very same buddy loaned them cash for the primary month and deposit. With out jobs, they’re uncertain how they may provide you with the mandatory cash to pay subsequent month’s hire and haven’t but obtained any formal rental help. Yasir, who used to do improvement work with USAID, says the couple spent all their financial savings after the Taliban took over Afghanistan and so they misplaced their jobs. “I’m enthusiastic about individuals who can’t converse English, who don’t know somebody right here. What sorts of issues are they surviving?” Yasir says.

Discovering a job shortly isn’t all the time lifelike for evacuees. Again in Maryland, Khadija has utilized to a number of postings in retail—all beneath a 30 minute stroll from her house as a result of she doesn’t have a automotive and public transport choices are sparse. Thus far, nothing has labored out. She’s additionally despatched a minimum of $400 again house to her dad and mom who don’t have jobs.

Along with the logistical challenges of creating ends meet, Khadija and her brother, Mujtaba, are coping with trauma. As a former member of the Afghan navy and a part of Afghanistan’s ethnic minority Hazara group—which the Taliban and ISIS has brutalized for years—Khadija fears for the security of her dad and mom and two siblings, who stay in Afghanistan. As they flocked to the Kabul airport on August 18, together with 1000’s of Afghans, chaos ensued. A hand bomb detonated, injuring her brother Mujtaba’s leg and so they had been separated from their dad and mom. They later acquired on the airplane with out them.

For now, Khadija is concentrated on constructing a life for Mujtaba within the U.S., however she can also’t cease enthusiastic about her household again house and is determined for a strategy to carry them to security. “My scenario proper now just isn’t good and I don’t know what I ought to do and the way I may help my household,” she says.

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