The state’s refugee coordinators said 31 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in temporary housing in Colorado on Thursday.
A publicly undisclosed location on the Denver subway, selected through a tender process, opened to refugees on Wednesday, and at least seven people are already living there. The federal government is fully funding the temporary housing construction and program – currently the budget is $ 16 million, although this may change – and state officials expect them to remain open until March.
Not every refugee who arrives in Colorado will remain in temporary housing before finding a more permanent home, with many of those accommodated moving from military bases across the country. About 1,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in Colorado since August, and state leaders expect about 1,000 more to arrive by mid-February.
“We all had to kind of think about what ingredients we have locally, how we put them together, how they differ from other cities or other states, and come up with a solution for Colorado. … Our partnership with the federal government here is to help people leave bases because they were never meant to be permanent, ”said Keith Tintor, director of the newly created Office of New Americans.
Taintor called the moment historical. Although Colorado has hosted refugees since 1980, this is the first time the state has created temporary housing for them. A new command group was formed in August after evacuations in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover indicated that large numbers of refugees would arrive sooner than usual and that a faster response would be needed.
Colorado is the first state to have a formal agreement with the federal government to create a site of this magnitude, Colorado State Refugee Coordinator Noyes Combs said, although other states are preparing similar sites. With some 30,000 refugees still at military bases, they see this as a more effective way to help settle and provide centralized services to refugees who have already been screened and also vaccinated against COVID-19.
Most refugees living in Colorado’s temporary housing are in the country on parole for humanitarian reasons. Stays are expected to last an average of two to four weeks, with at least 90% of people finding permanent housing within 30 days.
The maximum occupancy on the site will vary based on the number of families arriving versus individuals, but it can accommodate over 200 families. Government officials say they are keeping the site a secret to ensure the safety of families, especially as refugees escaped traumatic situations.
“We are talking here about people who have experienced tremendous trauma and hardship, and they literally fled with nothing but clothes on their backs. And many of them have served American interests in Afghanistan, ”said Mark Techmeier, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Human Services.
In addition to a place to sleep and eat, three refugee resettlement agencies in Colorado – the African Community Center, Lutheran Family Services, and the International Rescue Committee – and volunteers will work with government partners in one location to help Afghans with temporary shelter with their new home. living and managing patients, whether it is looking for a job, enrolling children in school, or getting medical care. On the territory there are special rooms for worship and children’s games.
“The team here is creating a safe and welcoming environment that allows resettlement agencies to have the time to transition to more traditional resettlement … which we have been doing for many, many years.” – Mike Willis, director of Emergency Management, Colorado, said.