As the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis began to unfold, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas was called upon to help. Four Refugee and Immigration Services staff members were deployed to military bases, which had been transitioned into “refugee camps.” The rest of the team began preparing for the work of welcoming those who would now call Kansas home.
Initially, Catholic Charities agreed to provide resettlement assistance for 75 Afghanistan evacuees. That capacity number has since grown to over 200. All arrivals must have a “U.S. tie” to Kansas. That “U.S. tie” may be family members or friends. For those with a Special Immigrant Visa, a tie may also be a member of the U.S. military.
The greatest challenge for Catholic Charities has been housing. “We have been lucky to help find most of our arrivals long-term housing, but the rental rates are much higher than we’ve seen in the past. For example, 2-3 bedrooms used to cost between $750-$900. We are now seeing them closer to $1150-$1350,” said Kasey Featherston, Director of Refugee and Immigration Services. “It’s tough for a family to get on their feet with that expense, so even if we can help have a few extra months covered, that helps them create a bit of savings to set them up for success long-term.”
The outpouring of support from the community has been heartwarming. “I have so much hope for the families coming out of Afghanistan,” said Featherston. “I have hope because I’ve had the honor of receiving seemingly endless emails and calls from those across our community who also feel called to the work of welcome.”
While the challenges ahead for these families will be difficult, Featherston is optimistic about the future for those who reach the doorsteps of Catholic Charities, adding, “By the grace of God we will meet these families with help, with hospitality and above all with hope.”
To make a financial donation to help with refugee housing costs, go to: https://catholiccharitiesks.org/afghanistan-humanitarian-crisis/