Catholic Charities of Harrisburg preparing for influx of Afghan refugees

Harrisburg

LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — The U.S. continues to evacuate thousands of Afghan families.

Many will be resettled across the country, including in the Midstate.

Catholic Charities resettles about 100 to 300 refugees a year in the Harrisburg area, thousands in total over the past few decades. The organization is expecting an influx over the next few weeks.

Refugees from around the world are welcomed with open arms in Harrisburg.

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“The majority of the families we serve are often coming, if with anything, maybe a suitcase of their most important documents, but they come with a leap of faith,” Charity Stowell, refugee resettlement program manager with Catholic Charities of Harrisburg, said.

Stowell says most of the refugees they’ve helped in the past have been interpreters with the U.S. military.

“We’ve served a lot of Afghani SIVs who have come through our program since 2009 and we know that their family members are in Afghanistan. They’re suffering,” Stowell said.

SIVs are special immigrant visas that can take many years to get. “Most families already have all the background checks together. It’s just that they’ve had to go through the bureaucracy,” Stowell said.

It’s unclear how long it will take for those now being evacuated from Afghanistan to come into these resettlement agencies. “But we’re hoping that it will be a matter of weeks rather than months or years,” Stowell said.

The biggest need right now is housing. Stowell and her team are looking for landlords to work with them to rent to refugee families. And volunteers to help with everything from medical appointments to cultural adjustment.

“They do come with resilience. They come with energy and enthusiasm and a desire to become Americans,” Stowell said.

According to the White House, since the end of July, 12,000 Afghans have been evacuated. That includes 7,000 in the last five days.

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