Like the United States plans to admit refugees from Ukrainethe housing crisis in Southern California continues to pose a problem for another group of refugees: Afghans who have arrived in recent months.
Some Afghan refugees are still stuck in Los Angeles hotels months after arriving
The collapse last August of the US-backed government in Afghanistan led to a massive airlift of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees. Since then, resettlement agencies have worked to provide these families with social services, housing and jobs.
But in Southern California’s tight rental market, finding permanent, affordable housing for Afghan families is still proving difficult months later, said Lilian Alba, vice president of immigrant and refugee services at the Los Angeles International Institute, one of the few local resettlement agencies. .
“Of the families that IILA has received and placed in our community, we have between 75 and 80 families who are still in hotels,” Alba said, adding that most of those families were in LA County.
In Orange County, which attracts many Afghan refugees, nearly 40 Afghan families are still believed to be staying in hotels, World Relief’s Jose Serrano in Garden Grove said.
The biggest problem is the lack of affordable housing, Alba said. Another hurdle is that landlords, many of whom have taken a financial hit on rent during the pandemic, continue to be “very cautious about who they accept as tenants,” she said.
We’ve had families asked to provide $30,000 so they can move in
— Lilian Alba, Los Angeles International Institute
“We’ve had landlords asking for six months’ rent up front, so we’ve had families who have been asked to provide $30,000 to be able to move in,” Alba said.
More Afghans arrived in Southern California last fall and winter as refugees were gradually released from camps set up at US military bases. Resettlement agencies scrambled to find them temporary accommodation in hotels, motels, even with host families who have volunteered to host them. Many have now been housed, but not all.
Agencies are working with nonprofits and community groups to find permanent housing for these remaining families. Community groups, churches and other local organizations continue to help them raise funds to help cover the relocation costs of Afghan families.
An impending deadline
A critical deadline ahead for many Afghans who are still in hotels is their third anniversary of arrival, Alba said. Resettlement agencies are funded to cover the case management of new refugees for 90 days, by which time – under normal circumstances – they are expected to be settled.
“With families staying in hotels for so long, some of the resettlement funds we have received have run out, so there is a need to continue to secure private funds to help pay these hefty security deposits,” said Alba.
The aim is to move the remaining families into permanent accommodation over the next month, she said.
Ongoing housing challenge comes as Biden administration plans to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by war with Russia. So far, most of those who have entered the United States have arrived on visas obtained by their families here, or on humanitarian parole obtained at the US-Mexico border.
As local resettlement agencies await more details, Alba said she is concerned about how they can fully support and house new Ukrainian refugees arriving in Southern California.
“We are extremely happy to learn that the United States will admit 100,000 Ukrainians,” she said. “However, we are concerned about what this looks like for California…. that we simply won’t have the capacity to provide the adequate support that families will need.
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