Catherine McAuley Center works to find homes for Afghan refugees staying in area hotel amid housing challenges in Cedar Rapids

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 5:29 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Some of the Afghan refugees who escaped the Taliban are now living in a hotel in Cedar Rapids. That’s because finding housing for the more than 180 refugees who have come to the city isn’t easy. The pandemic and derecho have left limited housing options in the area.

On Thursday afternoon, the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids loaded up essentials to move one family from the hotel into a more permanent home.

“You know hotels are great to stay in for a day or two but when it’s any extended period of time it starts to get old pretty quick,” Sara Zejnic said, Director of Refugee & Immigrant Services at the Catherine McAuley Center.

The group has been working to move all of the refugees into housing since they began arriving in Cedar Rapids in October. Housing has been identified for 140 of them so far who are in the process of moving.

“With the speed that Afghans have been entering into the community and that we’ve been welcoming new people we knew that it just wasn’t going to be sustainable to find housing prior to people landing in Eastern Iowa,” Zejnic explained.

The Catherine McAuley Center continues to receive 10-20 refugees from Afghanistan every week who need a place to live. They’re looking for rentals in the middle of a pandemic, in a market devastated by the derecho.

“We would absolutely appreciate if there are any landlords or people who are connected to landlords to connect with us,” Zejnic said.

Finding a home is often the first step to the refugees starting school, or figuring out public transportation to get to work. It’s a chance at a fresh start for those who left their country months ago, have since spent time on military bases, and were eventually flown into Iowa.

“We really want to make sure that we’re helping them find, find good homes that they can put down roots in and find some stability after all the chaos and change that they’ve experienced,” Zejnic explained.

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