“We’re really excited to be here today and to have the opportunity for all of you to see what a home looks like.”
Susan Schnitzer is president and CEO of CIRI, Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants. She, and the state refugee resettlement taskforce, were in New Haven Wednesday to tour the future home of a refugee family from Afghanistan.
A team of people were putting finishing touches on the apartment just before a news conference on the resettlement efforts statewide. Officials reiterated the need for more housing across the state, as rentals are in high demand.
There are 214 people who have arrived in Connecticut so far. Officials estimate that to be about 43 families. Three families arrived Tuesday night.
They want to get jobs, they want to become independent, regain control over their lives. Asd this country gives them that opportunity,” said Chris George, executive director of IRIS, the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
“Many of them have just grabbed their bags, fled their homes. And they were in military bases for weeks or months,” Schnitzer said. “This is the first time they can sit, and they can breathe.”
NBC Connecticut spoke to one man from Afghanistan who didn’t want to be identified. He was resettled in Connecticut in 2019 with help from IRIS. He says he walked for 15 days from Afghanistan to Iran to begin his journey to America.
“That was a very tough time for me. I’ll never forget.”
Wednesday, he was part of the moving company setting up apartments for new refugees.
“I’m happy here, I got a job, I got a car, I got a license, everything,” he said. “I’m happy here.”
But he’s constantly worried about family that is stuck in Afghanistan. His brother is one of them.
“He’s just hiding now. I have no contact with him.”
He was unloading furniture donated by Quinnipiac University. George says those types of donations are non-stop and welcomed.
“Anything that you would need to set up an apartment from lamps to rugs to end tables and all that, it’s being donated by hundreds of people across the state,” George said. But when it comes to finding locations to set up, those are hard to come by.
“What we are struggling to find right now are apartments. Affordable apartments, safe apartments, for, as you heard, five hundred folks. And it may end up being more over the next year,” Schnitzer said.
George adds their organizations have run in to problems with some landlords that are reluctant to rent to their clients.
“But we stand behind these refugee families,” George said. “We will make sure they pay the rent in full, on time. We are so confident that we will co-sign the lease.”
Daniel and Andrea Schley are landlords of properties in Bridgeport. They already rent to refugees, and when one of their units became available, they wanted to rent to an Afghan family.
“For us it’s a moral, we feel a moral responsibility,” said Daniel Schley. “Particularly the Afghan refugees. These are people who served our country. They fought alongside of us.”
“It’s just more meaningful, it feels good,” Andrea Schley said. “It feels like the right thing to do.”