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How many Ukrainian refugees are in the U.S., where are they and how long can they stay? Why is the process for Ukrainians different from other refugees?

A recently announced federal program called Uniting for Ukraine is a pathway for Ukrainians fleeing their country to stay in the United States for up to two years. Ukrainians participating in the program must have someone in the U.S. who agrees to provide financial support for the duration of that stay. The door is open for up to 100,000 refugees from the war-torn country.

Even though it’s expected that the majority of Ukrainians will resettle in European countries, the Tent Partnership for Refugees is working to help recent arrivals from Afghanistan settle into life in the U.S. and has developed a resource for American companies designed to help them find work and job training opportunities.

Near the nation’s capital, Lutheran Social Services has helped settle more than 4,000 Afghans since last summer. For many, the benefits of a community that is like “a second Kabul” outweigh the high housing costs, said Zabi, a housing coordinator for LSS and relatively recent refugee from Afghanistan.

The search for housing for Afghans comes amid a tightening housing market as the U.S. crawls out of the pandemic. The nationwide vacancy rate for rental units dropped about one percentage point, to 5.6%, in the last quarter of 2020, according to recently released U.S. Census data.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’d like to recognize another brave, determined woman, Hanifa Girowal. Hanifa was a human rights attorney in Afghanistan, working with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for several years. She, like many went to work August 15 and then her day, and her future, changed in a matter of hours.

Government-funded resettlement agencies in Virginia often partner with houses of worship to help support refugees. The ADAMS Center in Sterling, Virginia has helped hundreds of refugees, including a family still traumatized by the violence they witnessed when they escaped Afghanistan in 2021. 

“It was a very bad day,” says Afghan refugee Diba, whose last name is being withheld for safety reasons. “It was a very bad, dangerous day. It is such an experience that it’s really hard to describe with words. If you have seen the photos, you must know how bad the situation was. Everyone was being trampled or killed. People’s clothes were being torn apart.” 

Eleven days after the Taliban swept through Afghanistan’s capital in August, Hamed Ahmadi found himself far from the home he fled in Kabul eating cantaloupe, two slivers of chicken and a small piece of bread for dinner at a military base in El Paso, Texas – a meal that made waves on social media after the 28-year-old posted it to his Twitter account.... While the Afghan American community has stepped up as a resource for incoming migrants, neighbors from other communities have come together to welcome this newly displaced population, too. Resettlement organizations in the D.C. area have especially provided themselves as resources during this time, including LSSNCA.

Through the U.S. government’s initiative, Operation Allies Refuge, more than 100,000 Afghans have been evacuated to the U.S. and military bases. One of the organizations actively helping Afghan refugees resettle in the United States is the Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, their CEO Kristyn Peck tells Elena Russo about the process and their needs.

Refugee resettlement groups in the Washington region are scrambling to keep up with a huge influx of Afghan evacuees, leaving families waiting for housing and other services in a situation that could soon worsen as U.S. officials prepare to shut down temporary housing sites in military bases.

Before the Kabul airlift, “We had the staffing level to serve 500 people a year,” said Kristyn Peck, chief executive of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA), one of three local resettlement groups serving Northern Virginia. Peck has hired 35 additional workers since July — but, she said, “You can’t go to a staffing level to serve 500 people a month overnight.

In the last four years, Hannah Koilpillai, 65, has rounded up used furniture, beds, dishes and more to set up apartments for more than 500 people from other countries who resettle in the Washington area. Koilpillai herself came to the U.S. from India at age 10, and fondly remembers her family’s host — a woman who helped her family find health insurance and buy groceries.

In our area, since August 1, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area has resettled 150 families — almost 1,000 individuals — from Afghanistan. The social services organization expects to resettle 2,400 more people, mostly Afghans, over the next year, said spokesman Jacob Barclay.

After the dramatic airlift out of Kabul, tens of thousands of Afghans have been stuck in a holding pattern in the U.S. Many are housed for now on military bases, as we heard yesterday. They're awaiting resettlement in communities across the country, and organizations that work with refugees in those communities are racing to get ready.

Refugee resettlement agencies are racing to find housing for the approximately 53,000 Afghans on military bases in the United States who will eventually be resettled in the country, but the groups are facing a strained -- and expensive -- housing market. "The housing crisis is essentially what Americans are experiencing but imagine approaching it when you don't have a nest egg, you don't have a safe income yet, you have no landlord references or history," said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, a refugee resettlement agency.

The Lutheran Services in America network is working passionately to resettle Afghan allies and their families here in the United States. Following the recent takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area in Washington D.C., has been a leader in finding new homes for Afghans around the nation’s capital.

Right now, thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban are camped out at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia, while a handful of local nonprofits scramble to locate permanent housing for every family who is eligible for resettlement in the Washington region. Many refugees left home in a hurry, with scarce money and no English proficiency. Some have multiple young children or require medical attention. Many thousands lack even the basic benefits granted to holders of Special Immigrant Visas, the designation reserved for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government during the 20-year war. And now, those who wish to stay here must navigate one of the country’s most expensive housing markets.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a social services organization that’s facing a financial funding gap in the effort to resettle refugees arriving from Afghanistan. The Federation’s United Jewish Endowment Fund (UJEF) is partnering with Lutheran Social Services National Capital Area (LSSNCA) by providing $650,000 in financial support.

When the Taliban completed its take over of the country, Governor Hogan announced the state is “ready and willing” to take more Afghan refugees.

“When America began its withdrawal from Afghanistan, I made clear that Maryland was ready and willing to welcome these Afghan allies,” said Governor Hogan. “Many of these Afghan citizens bravely risked their lives to provide invaluable support to our efforts as interpreters and support staff, and we have a moral obligation to help them.”

After the Biden administration finished one of the largest airlifts in the nation's history Aug. 30, organizations tasked with helping Afghans arriving in the U.S. are scrambling to ramp up operations following years of downsizing due to the Trump administration's slashed refugee program.

As of August 23, Lutheran Social Services said it has worked to resettle more than 250 Afghans in the U.S., and it expects a "steady and increasing" number of referrals in coming weeks. Autumn Kendrick, a spokesperson for the nonprofit, said "the extraordinary help of the community" has made it possible to accommodate the recent influx of refugees... We're very humbled to be a part of this historic welcome and be able to provide housing, transportation and other basic needs to these new neighbors that are so overjoyed to be here and to have that safety and security that they haven't had before," Kendrick told CBS News. "We've seen an emotionally overwhelming amount of community support and that's so great to see."

As the Pentagon rushed to fly Americans out of Afghanistan ahead of the withdrawal deadline last month, the U.S. military also evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom worked with American and allied troops during the conflict. So far, more than 20,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in the United States, where a number of organizations are helping them begin the resettlement process. To learn more, we called Kristyn Peck. She is the CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, a nonprofit that helps newly arrived refugees in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Kristyn Peck, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

For many Americans, it’s difficult to imagine what the tens of thousands of newly arrived Afghan refugees are going through. But Arshad Mehmood doesn’t have to imagine. He knows. Only seven years ago, Mr. Mehmood was in their shoes, fleeing Pakistan. He describes being kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban for being a local politician. Now, as the regional coordinator for a national nonprofit, Mr. Mehmood as well as his team in northern Virginia, many of whom are refugees themselves, is helping these new arrivals with everything from finding apartments to translating school enrollment forms from English to Pashto.

Dozens of volunteers pitched in to help fully furnish an Arlington apartment for an Afghan refugee family of six. The family arrived on the last flight out of Kabul before it fell to the Taliban.

Volunteers from Lutheran Social Services and Old Town Books helped the family resettle by fully furnishing their apartment, stocking it with groceries, basic needs and providing a warm welcome.

A local family is spending the week making jewelry to sell in an effort to raise money for Afghan refugees. Their jewelry sale raised over $1,200 and the proceeds will go to LSSNCA!

“We are so grateful to be able to be on the front lines of this response. This is why we do our work,” Kristyn Peck, LSSNCA CEO said. “This is why we're here, but it has taken a community effort.

The federal government, nonprofits, media organizations and private contractors are still trying to get people out of Afghanistan and away from the threat of Taliban retaliation for assisting Americans during 20 years of war.

If they can get out, many are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas to live in the U.S. That means there are efforts to find housing for these people in a hurry. For some context, consider Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, which helps resettle refugees and people coming in on Special Immigration Visas. Last year, it served about 500 people, mostly Afghan SIVs.

Many Afghans being evacuated from the country after its takeover by the Taliban will end up living in the D.C. area, and there are several ways to help them.

Kristyn Peck, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, told WTOP that her agency needs cash donations to help refugees rent homes, get hotel rooms and for transportation.

The refugees, who were flown into Fort Lee, an Army base near Petersburg, Virginia, will be living in one of Lutheran Social Services’ three resettlement sites in Maryland’s Hyattsville or in Fairfax or Dale City in Virginia.

The 30-year-old father, who moved to Virginia in 2016, has been under constant worry as he encourages his family in Kabul to continually switch locations since the Taliban swiftly took over Afghanistan. With only two bags, his wife and son, Noori established a life in Virginia with the help of his supervisor and the resettlement benefits provided by the SIV program. He became a job and employment specialist for the Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) by 2019 as a way to use his skills in interpreting and helping fellow allies who were in his position.

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