Featured Photo: Dozens of people gathered at the New Garden Friends Meeting House to learn more about how to help Afghans who will come to the city in the coming weeks. (photo by Nicole Zelniker)
Soon, around 100 Afghans are expected to relocate to Greensboro, and all will need help.
On September 18, dozens of Greensboro residents gathered behind the New Garden Friends Meeting to learn how to help their new neighbors.
Deborah Suess, Acting Minister of New Garden, introduced Million Mekonnen, Executive Director of the North Carolina African Service Coalition. Mekonnen explained to the group of potential volunteers that although NCASC has been actively resettling refugees since 1997, it would be a new kind of challenge.
âWe are in a very different time,â Mekonnen said. âThis is an emergency evacuation.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 65,000 evacuated Afghans will need to be resettled in the United States by the end of the month, and another 30,000 next year. Many are fleeing the country after the culmination of a decades-long conflict that led to a Taliban takeover of the government.
There are four groups of people arriving in the United States from Afghanistan. The former are those who have a special immigrant visa, those who have worked for the US government or government contractors in Afghanistan for a specified period. The second are refugees. The third are SQ / SI parolees or those with special immigrant visa status pending. The last are humanitarian parolees.
The majority will be humanitarian parolees, meaning they will not be available for federal benefits, such as medical benefits, food stamps and the right to apply for a green card. They do, however, have the option of applying for asylum status, which would grant them the benefits if approved.
Mekonnen and NCASC are pushing for co-sponsorships, which would enable community members to help Afghans find transportation and housing, and adjust to the community.
âResettlement is not a one-time agency job,â Mekonnen said. âWe have to bring everyone. “
NCASC isn’t the only agency working to bring people to Greensboro and connect them with friends, jobs and housing. FaithAction and Church World Services have teamed up to do similar work in the community.
âWe have fantastic staff who work to turn strangers into neighbors, to make sure that anyone in the community who comes in as an immigrant or refugee has a space for support,â Adriana Adams told FaithAction. âIt’s a tough climate if you are not accepted as a legal citizen. We provide DACA support and then we also have case management support for families and newcomers. “
Right now, FaithAction’s top priorities are food, permanent housing, transportation, education, and professional relations. And while all of this is important, some Greensboro residents are wondering how things like housing are going to play out when there is so little affordable housing available to begin with.
âThis gets into the issues that Greensboro and most medium and large cities face,â said community organizer Andrew Young. âWhere can you place people with limited accommodation? “
Young has a long history of working with refugees and other groups coming to Greensboro through the Bonner Center at Guilford College. He hopes the agencies will be able to get all the resources they need, but also knows it could be difficult.
He saw things go horribly wrong too. In 2018, five Congolese children died in an apartment fire, prompting refugee families and activists to fight for better conditions. But the parents of these children will never get their children back.
âChildren died in this scenario,â Young said. âThe agencies have never been held accountable. “
Affordable housing has long been a difficult search even for current residents, and the waiting list for affordable housing is long enough that many find themselves homeless before reaching the top. Despite the moratorium on evictions put in place earlier this year, people have still been left homeless.
âIt’s good that they say they need help, but there’s no easy answer to that,â Young said. âThere are a lot of people in our city who want refugees to come here. I want it. But there is no easy solution.
FaithAction will be hosting a fundraiser on October 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. at LeBauer Park. Learn more at faihouse.networkforgood.com.