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Local organizations need more resources to help resettle Afghan refugees arriving in West Michigan

The Kent County Gateways for Growth is asking for community support to secure housing, raise financing and increase volunteerism.

Thousands of Afghan refugees started their way to the U.S. last month, and with the first few now settling in West Michigan, officials with local organizations like Samaritas say more needs to be done. 

"Identifying housing is the biggest challenge with supply shortages with rental properties," Director of New Americans Chris Cavanaugh says. 

He says there's now about 75 Afghan refugees living across Michigan, and with a handful in our area, they're looking for long-term rentals for individuals and families, as well as financing and volunteers to get everything done quickly.

In years past, Cavanaugh says there was a slow trickle of refugees coming to town throughout the year, but lately, they've only had about a day's notice before families and individuals arrive. He says the first group of refugees who arrived were unaccompanied children.

"As they were trying to get in past the gate, other relatives stayed behind, so there's also that level of trauma that we're expecting among this caseload<" he says.

Vulnerable situations like this make their resources for refugees especially important, and the Executive Director of Affordable Living Development Joel Lautenbach says they're also asking for medical professionals to step in. 

"We really would love for mental health professionals to come forward and identify themselves as interested in learning how to p this population," he says.

The Kent County Gateways for Growth is comprised of multiple local groups aiding in their welcome plan, and Lautenbach says they hope to see refugees thrive.

"We want to provide them with the support they need so they can be successful," he says. 

To help, you can visit the group's housing resources survey, donation page and mental health provider survey.

For a full list of organizations to offer your volunteerism to, you can visit their official site.