The Refugee Resettlement Office of the Diocese of Olympia needs your help!
Every year for the past three decades, the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office has helped resettle hundreds of families fleeing war, famine, and persecution. Their resettlement efforts include finding and furnishing apartments for new arrivals, meeting families at the airport, providing cultural orientation, helping with food and clothing and medical needs, enrolling children in school, supporting job searches, and offering English classes. As with most refugee resettlement agencies across the country, the government provides limited financial support for the refugees entering our country, and the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office faces a number of challenges to their mission of serving displaced persons from around the globe.
Just last week, the Refugee Resettlement Office was assigned a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Priority One Case involving an Afghan family of 10 comprised of a mother, father, and eight minors needing to leave their home country immediately. The family will be arriving in early February, and the search has begun to find these new arrivals adequate housing. Resettling a family of 10 on limited resources is difficult, especially in a region that is experiencing continued increases in rent. Competing for housing on the open market on behalf of a family that has not yet arrived is difficult, even under the best of circumstances. The Refugee Resettlement office had a promising lead on a subsidized, newly built Housing and Urban Development (HUD) property in Lynwood, but landlord backed out citing concerns on family size. Additional leads on four and five-bedroom apartments have also fallen through due a number of reasons: lack of a social security number, the inability of landlords to run security checks since the family is currently on foreign soil, and lack of earned income on the day they apply for an apartment.
Resettlement regulations provide additional challenges to securing housing for large families. The family has both a brother and a former colleague living in the same apartment complex in Kent. The apartment owners are willing to let the family temporarily live between the two apartments. Another option would be to place the family into adjoining two-bedroom apartments, also allowed by many of the apartment complexes that work with the Refugee Resettlement Office. However, the sponsoring organization that has assigned this family to the Refugee Resettlement Office won’t allow the family to temporarily separated within the same complex due to worries that this temporary situation will become permanent.
If they aren’t able to secure adequate housing by the time the family arrives in the U.S., the Refugee Resettlement Office will be forced to put the family up in a hotel, which will drain their limited resources all-too-quickly. While several churches within the diocese have expressed interest in assisting the work of the Refugee Resettlement Office, none of the faith communities are able to provide the necessary housing on such short notice. The local Afghan community has been extremely helpful in generating apartment leads, but there are worries that this model isn’t sustainable as more of these cases come to the Refugee Resettlement Office since newly arrived Afghans have not yet generated organizations that can assist newcomers.
The family will be given $1,224 per month in public assistance from the federal government, hardly enough to cover the estimated $1,800 in monthly rent and $300 in utilities. Even with assistance from the Refugee Resettlement Office’s benevolence fund, the head of the family will likely need to work two full-time jobs in order to keep the family’s head above water. With regional rents increasing at an exponential rate, there are also concerns that a new refugee family of this size will be able to keep pace with the rental market.
According to Greg Hope, Executive Director of the Refugee Resettlement Office, the agency is in short-term need of leads on 5-bedroom apartments and monetary donations to cover the potential costs of a hotel stay. Cases like this often come without warning and greatly tax the resources and capacity of refugee resettlement organizations. For the long-term sustainability of bringing over large refugee families, the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office will need an increase in donations to build up their benevolent rent fund and will need churches or private individuals to help sponsor the resettlement of large families fleeing violence and persecution back home.
To donate or provide housing leads, please visit the Refugee Resettlement Office’s website below.