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Resettlement Agencies In Western Mass. Lining Up Resources For Afghanistan Evacuees

An Afghanistan evacuee deplanes in Italy on August 22, 2021, assisted by U.S. military.
An Afghanistan evacuee deplanes in Italy on August 22, 2021, assisted by U.S. military.

Refugee resettlement agencies are preparing for hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan coming to western Massachusetts.

That includes finding employment, clothing and legal assistance for arrivals. 

Catholic Charities executive director Kathryn Buckley-Brawner said finding affordable housing is their top priority.

“We're actually reaching out to all of our constituencies — different stakeholders — asking for places that could temporarily house the Afghani evacuees for anywhere from three to six months,” she said.

Shannon Hanson, program manager at Ascentria in West Springfield, said her agency has been open to community support.

"We've had people reaching out in northern Mass. that say, 'We have a community that really wants to help support a family,' or are asking what they can do to help out," Hanson said. "And if it's a strong support team that can help us resettle someone in that area, then we'll do it."Resettlement agencies say they get some funds for each evacuee from the federal government — but only for a three-month window. Agencies say it will take longer than that to resettle evacuees. 

"Without those federal benefits, the onus is really on us to ...pay their rent, and pay for their food until we're able to help them find employment," Hanson said. "And then they can eventually be self-sufficient."

Chris George, director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, said he has his next year mapped out.  

"We plan to resettle about 200 refugees in the Greater Hartford area," he said. "That would be Hartford, East Hartford, West Hartford, Manchester, Glastonbury, Rocky Hill."

George said his agency is opening a second office in Hartford, as soon as next week, staffed with about five or six people.

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