Evacuees from Kabul
staying in hotels in Turlock

KABUL (Agencies): A refugee resettlement agency confirmed there are serious delays in finding housing for scores of Afghan evacuees in Turlock. More than 90 refugees from Afghanistan, among the tens of thousands who were evacuated after Kabul fell to the Taliban in August, are staying in temporary housing in Turlock and are frustrated in attempts to start working, obtain driver’s licenses and learn English, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article.
Several hundred refugees began arriving here five or six months ago, running into the chronic housing shortage and steep costs that grip the Modesto and Turlock rental markets. Along with the rental costs, the refugees may have a difficult time with landlord requirements such as a cosigner or first and last months’ rent. Mizgon Darby, a spokesperson for International Rescue Committee, which has an office in Turlock, said the 90-plus refugees are staying for a prolonged period in hotels and Airbnb units. She said caseworkers are overloaded and the Turlock office has vacant staff positions it can’t fill.
“They are doing the best with the resources we have,” said Darby, who is development and communications manager for IRC in Northern California. In searching for rental homes and apartments, many of the new arrivals run into stumbling blocks in filling out applications for landlords.
Finding a home for larger families also takes times. Darby said IRC is using unrestricted funds to pay for temporary housing until the remaining refugees find homes. According to Darby, IRC has been urging the state to approve funding to subsidize housing costs for the evacuees in Turlock. Refugees who come to the United States are given $1,225 in one-time assistance to pay for needs such as housing, food and clothing.
Turlock has been a refugee resettlement hub for almost 20 years. The recent influx of Afghan evacuees included 2,900 relocated to Northern California cities also including Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland, according to the Chronicle. Turlock received 736, most of whom were able to find permanent housing. Zaher Rahman, a member of the Turlock Islamic Center, said he has talked with some of the refugees. He said housing is their most pressing need, but a lack of transportation also prevents them from starting to work and forces them to walk long distances to buy groceries.
They’re concerned they need to learn English and feel the pressure of not being able to pay bills, he said. Some have been separated from family members who remain in Afghanistan. The Islamic Center is trying to help by collecting donations from the community, Rahman said.
About 85,000 Afghans were evacuated to the United States after the US military withdrew from Afghanistan. Darby said there wasn’t much preparation for this wave of refugees. The Trump administration lowered the cap on refugee resettlements to 15,000 in 2021, which resulted in cuts to refugee programs.
Darby said IRC staff work with government agencies to expedite paperwork for getting Social Security numbers for the refugees but there is a backlog. When families from other countries have come to Turlock and Modesto through the traditional resettlement process, many already had relatives here, or volunteer sponsors would help them get driver’s licenses, enroll their kids in school and learn to adapt to their new environment.
But that isn’t the case with the sudden rush of refugees evacuated from Afghanistan. The spokesperson said the Turlock office could use volunteers to help with transportation or work in the office. In addition, landlords are needed to come forward and perhaps make exceptions for some refugee families. New volunteers don’t necessarily need to speak an Afghan language such as Farsi or Dari. The Turlock office also needs qualified people to apply for vacant staff positions. The International Rescue Committee in Turlock can be reached at 209-667-2378.