Thousands of Afghan refugees are still living in hotels while they wait for housing Six months after the Kabul airlift, the last Afghan refugees have left temporary camps at military bases in the U.S. But many families are still living in hotels while they wait for permanent housing.

Thousands of Afghan refugees are still living in hotels while they wait for housing

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As millions of Ukrainians flee the invasion of their country, the U.S. is still grappling with another refugee crisis. That is all of the Afghan refugees who were evacuated to the U.S. from Kabul last summer. They have now left the military bases where they lived for months, but for many, the journey still isn't over. Countless Afghans are still living in hotel rooms all across the country as they wait for permanent housing. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: At a hotel near the Baltimore-Washington airport in Maryland, volunteers drop off backpacks full of donated school supplies to a room full of waiting Afghan kids and parents.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We also have the toys for the 5-year-olds and below.



ROSE: A local non-profit organization has taken over this hotel conference room to help the families that are staying here. A man named Aziz has been living in the hotel for more than two months, along with his wife and two young children. He asked us not to use his last name because he's afraid of retaliation against their family back in Afghanistan. Aziz says he and his wife and kids still feel like passengers living out of backpacks in a hotel.

AZIZ: The hotel that we are living is good, not bad, not bad. But we are restless. We are not comfortable, not feeling comfortable.

ROSE: A significant number of Afghans are in the same spot. Six months after the Kabul airlift, the last Afghan families have finally left temporary camps at military bases in the U.S. - more than 76,000 Afghans in all. But the effort to resettle them in permanent homes is far from complete. The biggest obstacle, not enough affordable housing.

SHAKERA RAHIMI: They're happy they're in a safe country, but still, there are a number of challenges they are going through.

ROSE: Shakera Rahimi came from Afghanistan herself in 2014. Now she works for the Luminous Network for New Americans, a nonprofit in Maryland that's helping support these families while they wait for permanent housing. Rahimi has been able to connect these families with medical care and get their kids registered for school, but for a while, these families weren't getting much help. In December, before Rahimi was working here, one of the Afghan women staying in the hotel gave birth. Rahimi says she and her husband had to find their own way to the hospital and back.

RAHIMI: It was not easy for him to call the ambulance and take the wife there. And from the way back, he was - he didn't know how to come back.

ROSE: It's not clear exactly how many Afghan refugees are still living in hotels. The federal agencies in charge told us they don't have that information, but some states are tracking the numbers, which are likely in the thousands nationwide. Kelli Dobner is with Samaritas, a nonprofit in Michigan that's working to resettle Afghan refugees there.

KELLI DOBNER: When you have 1,700 refugees coming into the state at one time, just from Afghanistan alone, that puts an immediate strain on that already low affordable housing inventory.

ROSE: Dobner says her organization is working with about 500 Afghan refugees. About half are still in hotels, and she estimates it will take several months to find permanent housing for the rest.

SONIK SADOZAI: Time is running out, and there's no solution.

ROSE: Sonik Sadozai came to the U.S. from Afghanistan more than 40 years ago. Now she works with Afghan Refugee Relief in Orange County, south of LA. Sadozai is trying to find permanent housing for more than 100 newly arrived families. But she says rents in Southern California are high, and landlords are reluctant to rent to tenants with no credit history.

SADOZAI: We're giving the social services, but where can they live? You cannot be on the street with their kids.

ROSE: Sadozai says these families are getting help to cover their hotel rooms through refugee resettlement agencies, but that money is only supposed to last for three months. For some of these families, that deadline is coming up fast, and she doesn't know where they'll go when it's time to check out.

Joel Rose, NPR News.


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