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Samaritas ready to welcome Afghan refugees

300 expected to arrive in the coming weeks
Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 19:24:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Friday, Samaritas received a shipment of 65 new mattresses. They stacked them one on top of the other in a corner of a warehouse that’s filled with coats, bags, cups, plates, pots, pans and other household items.

“Through some funds we purchased some mattresses because we want the landlords we’re working with to have assurance that we’re bringing in clean furniture and not dealing with any pests or anything like that,” said Chris Cavanaugh during an interview with FOX 17 on Friday. “We’re  probably moving about six families into apartments and houses next week. So, a pretty big moving operation about to take place.”

Cavanaugh, who’s Samaritas’s director for New Americans, said over the coming weeks 300 refugees from Afghanistan will be arriving in Grand Rapids. Samaritas and another organization have been working to find them houses and apartments to live in throughout the city.

“It’s rewarding,” Cavanuagh said about helping them. “It feels patriotic as well because many of these people, we’re finding, did work alongside the U.S. government, whether that was as an employee at the embassy or interpreters for the armed forces. And so it’s a privilege to help them resettle here.”

Once they are settled into their new homes, Samaritas helps them with their cases, legal work, schooling if needed and mental health, Cavanaugh said. They also try to reconnect them with loved ones living elsewhere in the country.

“There’s large Afghan communities across the country, specifically in Virginia, Washington, Texas, California, and sometimes we have information that they have relatives in those locations or friends,” Cavanaugh said. “So, getting them landing into our temporary housing helps to us to assess if they really want to stay in West Michigan. If so, then our search begins for where that might be.”

So far, 71 people have resettled in Grand Rapids since early November, he said. Those who have come have been OK with calling the city their new home.

“Most people that have arrived so far have expressed that they want to stay here,” Cavanaugh said.

***Samaritas said they’re looking for volunteers. If you’d like to help in any way, click here.***

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