Iowa is expecting several hundred refugees from Afghanistan to come to the state to resettle.
Bethany Kohoutek works for Lutheran Services of Iowa — one of the agencies helping coordinate the resettlement. “At the moment, we are authorized to resettle up to 300 individuals in Des Moines, and 150 in Sioux City. And then 75 in other spots in rural Iowa,” she says.
Kohoutek doesn’t have a specific timetable for when the refugees will arrive. She says they are being processed and vetted at U.S. military bases. “The vetting process is extraordinarily expensive. there’s more information on our website LSIowa.org. There’s some really great resources for the actual process,” Kohoutek says. “It’s an extremely thorough process and folks have been through a lot by the time they actually make it here.”
Kohoutek expects finding housing for the Afghan refugees to be a challenge. “We’re really also looking to the community for any connections they might have. Property managers, individuals who might have a duplex or apartment complexes — any and all solutions to at least get folks temporarily situated,” she says. Kohoutek says there are plenty of job openings across the state, so that shouldn’t be an issue for refugees.
Mercedes Dimas of the Mary Tregalia Community House in Sioux City will be helping the refugees when they arrive.
“We don’t really have any information about their education level or their language abilities. And when they get here we will be able to get that information and do just what we need to do to support them and help them,” Dimas says. “Whether that’s enrolling them in English classes that we would provide here, obviously helping with job applications, job training.”
She says the first eleven could arrive in one to two weeks and she is trying to line up volunteers Dimas says she is trying to line up as many volunteers as she can so she can get an idea of the types of skills they have, as she says the refugees will definitely need support. You can find out more about the resettlement on the LSI website.
(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)