Afghan Refugee Family
(iStock)

In terms of numbers, JFS of Washtenaw County could be looking at about 800 individuals they will be resettling in their immediate area in the next year, if not more.

The state of Michigan has allocated $500,000 to help house about 1,300 Afghan refugees expected to arrive in the state, officials announced this month. 

As the Taliban continues to exert power over Afghanistan, resettlement agencies across the U.S. are preparing to support an influx of Afghan refugees fleeing the country.

Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Washtenaw County is one of five resettlement groups the state of Michigan is working within helping the refugees.

The office of Global Michigan, part of the state Labor and Economic Opportunity department, secured the half-million dollars from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to “temporarily house the arrivals until resettlement agencies can secure their permanent housing,” the department said.

With three to four days’ notice about specific refugees prior to their arrival to Michigan, JFS of Washtenaw County starts preparing for their arrival by looking for temporary hotels to place them in. If the refugees have friends or family in the area that are going to host them, JFS will take them to that home.

JFS of Washtenaw County also starts reaching out to its network of volunteers to begin gathering items for families, as many of them aren’t arriving with enough clothing or food. 

“We start speaking with our community partners, health clinics, schools, food pantries, counseling services, transportation, ESL, youth services and start preparing for their arrival in terms of other auxiliary services,” said Shrina Eadeh, director of the resettlement program at JFS of Washtenaw County.

After they arrive, the resettlement process begins.

From the moment the refugees are placed in temporary hotels, and even before, JFS is looking for more permanent housing options for them.

Eadeh says the housing options are a bit low right now, so they’ve been reaching out to a lot of landlords and property management companies in Washtenaw County to see if they have any apartments available. 

“We are still currently looking for and will need quite a bit of housing for the Afghan refugees.”

In terms of numbers, JFS of Washtenaw County could be looking at about 800 individuals they will be resettling in their immediate area in the next year, if not more.

How to Help

There are many ways the public can help with the Afghan refugees’ transition. 

“If anybody knows anybody who has any housing options available, apartments to rent, homes to rent, we would certainly welcome those referrals,” Eadeh said.

General donations for auxiliary services, such as food, clothing and housing, are also more than welcome, says JFS of Washtenaw County’s Chief Development Officer Devon Meier.

“All the auxiliary services we offer here, it’s wrap-around for our refugee clients,” Meier said. “Those general donations that come in all go into the same pot to be able to provide the full wrap-around service approach.” 

JFS of Washtenaw County helps refugees like those from Afghanistan from the day they arrive in the U.S. until the day they receive citizenship, not just their first 90 days. JFS goes beyond the 90 days in a comprehensive post-resettlement, helping with employment, getting kids settled, helping out with youth services and more. 

“Being the only resettlement agency within Washtenaw County, it’s a big job, but it’s a privilege, an honor and a moral obligation for this agency,” Meier said. “It’s the essence of the mission of what we do of creating solutions, promoting dignity and inspiring humanity. With much responsibility comes the need for much support, and it truly takes a village to be able to make this happen.”

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity also announced a new website, Michigan.gov/afghanarrivals, that the public can use as a resource to donate or volunteer to help the refugees. To help JFS of Washtenaw County, visit jfsannarbor.org/resettlement-integration-services. 

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