Afghan resettlement groups say housing is limiting their capacity

January 11, 2022 By SARAH GIBSON New Hampshire Public Radio

New Hampshire’s housing shortage has slowed the process of resettling Afghan evacuees, according to two local organizations. Of the 150 Afghan evacuees who have arrived to New Hampshire since November, about half of them remain in hotels.

“The housing market in New Hampshire has made it very difficult to find affordable and safe housing,” said Donna Odde, a staff member for Ascentria Care Alliance, which is resettling 100 Afghans, mostly in the Concord area.

“We could use 15 apartments today and fill them,” Odde says.

For Afghans who just arrived here with few belongings and no savings, New Hampshire’s shortage of affordable rental apartments is a big hurdle. Other states welcoming evacuees face a similar housing crunch. And that’s complicating an already overwhelming push to resettle over 70,000 Afghans in the U.S. before February.

“Housing is the number one issue on everyone’s plate,” said Crissie Ferrara, a program manager at Ascentria who is overseeing efforts to find homes and get families situated here.

The U.S. State Department and federal resettlement agencies want New Hampshire partners to resettle more Afghan evacuees (thousands of people are still stuck at U.S. military bases, awaiting a permanent home). Ferrara recently told officials that Ascentria couldn’t take more than it originally promised, in large part because of the housing crisis.

In Manchester, the International Institute of New England has already asked its federal partners to pause sending more Afghan families until the Institute can find permanent housing for the dozens of evacuees still living in hotels here.

In spite of housing shortages, both resettlement organizations say families are making the transition successfully.

While Ascentria staff look for housing, they are delivering groceries to Afghans living in hotel suites with kitchens. Once families move into apartments, neighborhood support groups are helping families with everything from medical care to learning how to navigate the supermarket.

The International Institute of New England anticipates enrolling a handful of students in the Manchester school system this month, and it’s also exploring a mental health support group for Afghan mothers.

Both organizations are helping families enroll in English classes and in some cases, college classes.

Both organizations are still looking for volunteers, who will be screened.

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