Houston resettlement agencies raising $8.5 million to help resettle Afghan evacuees

Along with providing basic needs, the collaborative also plans to provide Afghan evacuees with medical care, counseling, and job readiness training.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Afghan refugees pick out clothes at an Afghan refugee camp at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. The camp currently holds approximately 9,400 Afghan refugees and has a capacity to hold up to 13,000.

A four-agency Houston resettlement fund is raising $8.5 million dollars help to resettle Afghan evacuees in the Houston area by providing them with housing, food, clothing and household supplies.

Houston Afghan Resettlement Fund, or HARF, is newly formed collaboration between The Alliance, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, and the YMCA of Greater Houston.

The agencies have resettled collectively more than 300 evacuees from Afghanistan and more than 75,000 refugees from all over the world since 1978.

Along with providing basic needs, the collaborative also plans to provide Afghan evacuees with medical care, counseling, and job readiness training.

"Houstonians have always welcomed refugees and have always been generous because we know, in Houston, the difference they make in strengthening our community,” said Daniel Stoecker, president and CEO of The Alliance.

The Kinder Foundation and the Houston Endowment — two local charity organizations — have already donated $1.5 million each to the fund.

The agencies have already begun resettling Afghan families in the Houston area. According to HARF’s website, about 3,000 Afghan evacuees are expected to enter the Houston area through the beginning of 2022, with the first major influx of evacuees expected arrive from military bases early in October.

When the Biden administration began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan last month, thousands of Afghan civilians rushed to evacuate the country as the Taliban moved in to gain control. At least 50,000 Afghans will be allowed into the U.S., and around 31,000 have already arrived, according to reporting from The New York Times.

Many of those Afghan evacuees are entering the country under humanitarian parole, an emergency designation that grants evacuees access to temporarily enter the United States. According to HARF officials, the designation prevents evacuees from receiving the same benefits that would be granted to a traditional refugee, such as Medicaid, food stamps and cash assistance.

Upon entering the U.S., each evacuee, regardless of age, is given $1,225 in federal funds — a fraction of what is needed to help establish a family in a new country, according to HARF.

The group says about $16,000 is needed to support a family of four over a six-month period, and they plan to offset the lack of funding using the fundraised money.

HARF also plans to resettle families near other Afghan families throughout the Houston area to ease the transition into their new homes.

"When we come together as a community, there is nothing we cannot accomplish," said Interfaith Ministries president and CEO Martin Cominsky. "We have seen the generosity of Houstonians in action time and time again, and this time is no different."

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