St. Louis organizations announce new plan to help Afghan refugees

Missouri

ST. LOUIS — Multiple organizations have announced a new initiative aimed at helping Aghan refugees settle in St. Louis.

Jerry Schlichter, an attorney and the founder of Arch Grants, shared plans for an Afghan chamber of commerce, digital newspaper, and community center. Interfaith leaders and the International Institute of St. Louis, and the CEO of Schnucks are helping with the initiative.

“We’re really going to support them in deep and broad ways and to show others around the country that this is a place, in St. Louis, that they can come to and obtain support that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said Schlicter.

The initiative couldn’t come soon enough for many. In 2021, more than 400 refugees arrived in St. Louis alone. With only four caseworkers, the International Institute of St. Louis is having a hard time meeting up with demands.

“In the month of November, we actually resettled more than we did in all of 2021. So, we saw a very major and sudden increase in arrivals over a short period of time and that coincided here in St. Louis with a real housing crisis,” said Blake Hamilton, the vice president for programs at the International Institute of St. Louis.

It’s one of many issues these groups are hoping to fix.

“We’re seeing a large delay from public benefits applications, a large delay in stamps, social security card, and employment authorization card which are things that are needed before anyone can go to work,” said Hamilton.

These are all challenges Afghan refugee Yama Rasooli faces in addition to many others. He and his family have been in St. Louis for two months.

“There are problems with bills, like electric bills, gas bills, water bills, they don’t have money and his electric was getting canceled today,” said Rasooli.

He said their caseworker hasn’t visited in weeks.

“He didn’t have food today, and I picked him up and I bought him food for him and for another family,” said Haseeb Ahmadi, an Afghan refugee, and former U.S. Army translator.,

Both say they hope this new wave of ideas will help refugees build a better life. A press conference will be held at the International Institute of St. Louis Hall of Nations on Wednesday to provide further details.

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