WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Thousands of Afghan refugees are coming to the United States and are looking for a new place to settle. One local agency is helping some of those people settle in western Massachusetts.
"That are people that worked directly with the U.S. There's also people that may have been contracted to work with the U.S….It could also be just people who don't support the Taliban and that puts them at-risk,” said Shannon Hanson, program manager with Services for New Americans.
Ascentria Care Alliance is an agency in West Springfield that provides services for new Americans. The agency will be helping hundreds of Afghan refugees settle in western Massachusetts. They will help these refugees and their families find housing and jobs in West Springfield and surrounding areas.
"We provide resettlement services from start to finish - from picking up at the airport, to bringing people into their home, helping them get in to ELS classes if needed, finding employment, signing up for state benefits, enrolling kids into school,” Hanson added.
Hanson told Western Mass News they are facing multiple challenges with helping these refugees. Based on their status, they are not eligible for benefits that other refugees are.
"So, typically when a refugee comes in, they're eligible for SNAP benefits, TAFDC if it's a family or refugee cash assistance…It's just the nature of the status they are coming in under, a parolee is what they're called,” Hanson noted.
That's making their work extremely difficult.
"When you're trying to help someone get to self-sufficiency when they are coming in with essentially nothing...Especially, a lot of our Afghan allies were evacuated with nothing but the clothes on their back, so it makes it really difficult,” Hanson explained.
However, that's why this agency is asking for the community's help with donations, volunteers, and even people willing to offer up housing.
“We are looking for more independent, separate spaces, so like an in-law suite or if someone has a vacation home,” Hanson noted.
Hanson said they don't know when the refugees will arrive, but they know it will be soon. If you're interested in helping these refugees, information can be found on their website.