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Iowa Catholic Worker House to expand to help more than double the number of asylum seekers

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Catholic Worker House, in Iowa City, is looking to expand the number of asylum seekers they can assist by purchasing a new house.

This comes one week after the Biden Administration spoke with governors across the country about how many Afghan asylum seekers they will take in from the first group. Iowa is expected to help 695.

“It’s a hands-on way of providing a real human touch to someone who probably has never had that in their life,” Tom Novak, a volunteer, said.

Tom and his wife, Kim Novak, volunteer for the nonprofit and have done so for a combined decade. The current Iowa Catholic Worker House has four rooms for four families. They say the search for a larger house started four years ago.

“We are constantly having to turn people away,” Tom said. “It’s hard to say no to people, but we are limited in resources,” said Kim.

The nonprofit has raised over $700,000 in hopes of purchasing the Burford House Inn on Johnson Street. The Victorian-style home has six rooms, each with its own bathroom. It costs just under $900,000. It would more than double the number of people they could help and comes at a time when more Afghan refugees are seeking asylum.

“We’re already getting calls to help Afghanistan refugees that are coming in,” Kim said. “Right now, we don’t have the capacity to help. With this home, we will have more of a capacity to help a little bit more.”

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