As of 2020, there were an estimated 26 million refugees worldwide, and only 1 percent was resettled. The U.S. is one of only 37 resettlement countries for refugees and Texas leads the way as the state that takes in most refugees annually.
But once refugees are welcomed into a new land, they have to navigate a new world with innumerable language and cultural barriers. Sometimes they don't make it into actual homes.
As we approach the holiday season, countless refugees are still in need of housing, with thousands of them still living in U.S. military bases. Airbnb has partnered with Church World Service to continue their efforts to host refugees in several major cities, including Dallas.
Earlier this week, the State Department announced they would curtail refugee admission through Jan. 11, 2022, in an effort to prioritize resettling “tens of thousands” of Afghan refugees.
“We expect to continue to see hundreds of people each week arriving in our locations,” says Mary Elizabeth Margolis, senior director of communications for Church World Service, “that will not likely slow down over the holidays. We may get a couple days reprieve, but we expect that to continue over the next few months and that hopefully by early next year, most of the refugees will have been resettled and will be starting in their new communities.”
CWS is a 75-year-old organization that has helped find housing for refugees since the end of World War II. Through their Afghan Placement and Assistance program, CWS aims to help refugees who are staying in temporary Airbnb housing transition into permanent homes, as well helping them navigate a new life in the U.S.
“We help refugees with finding employment and job training, and access to health care,” Margolis says. “[We help them] navigate their new communities, get around using transportation, go to the grocery store, and make sure that they get their kids enrolled in school.
"We’ll teach them how to get in touch with any social service providers that they need, and we do case management with our clients who qualify, which is a longer term commitment to provide them with a caseworker, a social worker who can make sure that they have their health and their mental and physical health needs met.”
“We are far from capacity when it comes to volunteers and community support." – Church World Service's Mary Elizabeth Margolis
Throughout the holidays, Airbnb and CWS are accepting donations for refugees in the form of money, clothes, furniture and help with transportation. In previous years, some donors have been known to give whole properties to displaced families.
“This really goes a long way to making sure that we can provide a robust and comprehensive support system for new arrivals beyond the first 90 days,” Margolis says, “and make sure that they become fully self-sufficient. We stay with them until they are on their feet and they become thriving and fully participating members of their new communities.”
Airbnb and CWS say housing is the top priority for refugees, crediting landlords and property owners who list their properties for rent at affordable prices as one of their biggest assets.
Those wishing to gift their time can volunteer through Airbnb and CWS.
“We are far from capacity when it comes to volunteers and community support," Margolis says. "Airbnb really has gone further than any other corporation that we've worked with, at least in making sure that these refugees have what they need when they arrive. So we're very grateful for that partnership.”