Afghan refugees heading to SWFL face housing crisis

LEE COUNTY, Fla. Many of the tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who escaped the Taliban last year are now heading to Southwest Florida.

Now, they face new challenges as they try to find a place to live and assimilate into American culture. The team that’s helping them reveal their mission to bring people into homes is challenging as hundreds of others are headed here.

Luther Services confirmed Thursday that 250 Afghan refugees are headed to Southwest Florida and the agency is working to get them into their homes, but many are concerned that some refugees may end up on the streets with a housing crisis.

“Not on my watch. Not if I can help it,” insisted Lillian Pagan, who has been tasked with bringing in hundreds of refugees.

“So far, since December, I have received a total of 35 families, out of 35, I have only been able to book two with housing,” said Pagan.

The majority of the refugees are in temporary housing and receive a $1,200 grant from the US government. Pagan explained other refugee families are put in hotels and Airbnbs.

“We provide them with homes but those are temporary homes,” she said.

However, many more families are on the way.

“We have to be at a minimum of 200 to 250,” says Pagan.

However, those are the clients she is referring. Some clients may include a family of five or more.

“There is no doubt that there will be a crisis for the refugees themselves,” said Mohamed Al’Darsani.

Al’Darsani was once a refugee and fears many refugees will fall through the cracks.

“Some people might live on the streets and be homeless,” he predicts.

Democratic State Representative Anna Eskamani said this is a time in history because Americans should welcome those who are fleeing violent situations. Her parents fled Iran and she was born here.

“I still have a lot of family in Iran. I was always worried about how I had to speak out on issues like democracy and human rights that I could endanger my family back home in Iran,” she said.

That is the concern of many Afghans who move here, including Frank, who has brought his wife and five children with him.

“We were surrounded by the Taliban. Everywhere was shooting, bombing and exploding,” described Frank.

He doesn’t want them or his identity revealed for fear of reprisal and he and the others face new challenges in a new country.

“Even the locals are suffering and cannot afford the cost of living. How is a refugee with no resources and no income? Hopefully everyone in the community will step up,” said Al’Darsani.

Anyone looking to help financially or even sponsor a refugee family should contact Lutheran Services in Fort Myers at 239-268-4269 EXT: 24307.

https://nbc-2.com/news/local/2022/02/03/afghan-refugees-heading-for-swfl-face-housing-crisis/ Afghan refugees heading to SWFL face housing crisis

Tom Vazquez

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