NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) -- With a large influx of Afghan families expected to start arriving in Connecticut later this week, resettlement organizations are trying to make sure they have enough apartments.
On Monday, in downtown New Haven, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal joined New Haven based Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), along with other groups, to call on the federal government to step up assistance in helping relocate dozens of families fleeing Afghanistan over the next few weeks.
IRIS, which is leaning on local support and community groups, expects welcome 700 Afghans over the next year, and will help find housing and jobs, along with enrolling kids in school, and helping them learn English. They said they are mostly families with young children.
“Over the past five years we’ve welcomed about 500 Afghans to CT, most of them in the greater New Haven area. Over the past couple of months, eight to 10 families, but the really serious dramatic increase will begin at the end of this week next week,” said Chris George, of IRIS.
In fact, IRIS said it will need close to 200 apartments, over the next few months.
The refugees will need to be placed in Connecticut's two refugee resettlement groups.
“There are churches and synagogues and mosques, rotary clubs, colleges and universities all across the state of CT that’s stepped forward to help Afghan refugees start a new life in CT," George said.
The First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in downtown New Haven is working with IRIS to offer space as needed for a temporary shelter for any Afghan evacuees until they can be resettled with long term housing.
“We do this work out of very deep faith commitment. You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers,” said Rev. Vicki Flippin.
Among those refugees, George said they’re looking for two- and three-bedroom apartments in New Haven and the surrounding towns, preferably on bus lines, to help with transportation to services and jobs.
They’ve even hired two realtors to help in their apartment search.
“Most we will find in our areas of strength, the greater New Haven area. We’re opening an office in Hartford so we’ll put a lot of people in the greater Hartford area, not just Hartford but East Hartford, West Hartford, Manchester, Rocky Hill Glastonbury, anywhere we can find apartments,” George said.
The groups doing this work, say it’s just the start.
“We know after this first influx, over the next year, that we will be receiving Afghan refugees, for the next 1, 5, 10 years,” said Susan Schnitzer, of the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants.
Securing the apartments in CT is just one issue right now. That’s because IRIS said it’s still in contact with about 45 friends and family members, clients who went to visit Afghanistan back in the summer, and are now stuck over there, trying to get out and not wanting to leave their family behind.