© 2022 Cincinnati Public Radio
Connecting You to a World of Ideas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Local Resettlement Organizations Ready To Assist Afghans In Need

Afghanistan Airport
Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The Taliban declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country. (AP Photo)

Local refugee aid organizations are prepared should they be called to help Afghan refugees resettle in the Cincinnati region. It's work they've done before and say they're ready to do again.

As of Wednesday night, Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio wasn't expecting to help resettle any new families fleeing Afghanistan. By Thursday morning, the agency was seeking a home for a potential family in need.

"This is a family - from what we've been told - that has no U.S. ties," says Refugee Resettlement Services Director Anne Scheid. "They would be coming here, to our knowledge, not knowing anyone else in the U.S."

Thousands of Afghan interpreters, contractors, and personnel who helped the U.S. military are seeking to leave the country following the U.S. departure and subsequent take over by the Taliban. To do so, they're placed in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Once approved, they can choose to resettle anywhere in the U.S., either on their own dime, or with the help of a resettlement agency.

Not many Afghans choose to settle in Cincinnati - Scheid says the coasts, especially California, tend to be more popular - though there are some. Scheid specifically remembers one family that intended to go west, but ended up staying in Cincinnati and now say they're glad they didn't leave.

"He just raved about how welcoming it's been here for him and how supportive everyone in Cincinnati has been and even his children were identifying that they've made friends and even though they wanted to move somewhere else, they're very happy here in Cincinnati," Scheid says.

"If this (new) family does come, he will be a person who will be with us at the airport and he said, 'I will talk with them about how good it is in Cincinnati and try to convince them to stay here.' "

That means Catholic Charities is scrambling to find a place for the potential new arrivals to live. Scheid says they thought they had something in place but it fell through.

"What we need and what we are looking for are people who are willing to rent to a family from Afghanistan that's in a safe, affordable environment that will be their permanent home as they relocate here in Cincinnati."

The Need For Help Doesn't Start Or Stop With Afghanistan

Even if this family doesn't arrive, refugees from other areas are also in need and seeking new homes and lives in the Tri-State. Scheid notes arrival numbers were low under the previous administration but are expected to begin increasing. Catholic Charities goal is to resettle 225 people during the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1.

"We already anticipate that we'll be resettling refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Sudan and from Syria," says Scheid. "We're open again for Syrian families and they are going to be coming and we're going to need support for these families as well. They still remain the largest refugee group worldwide and we haven't forgotten - as a resettlement agency we haven't forgotten - the Syrians. As well as the Sudanese who have been living as refugees for many many, years and those in the Congo as well.

"We have other refugees coming."

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.