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As more refugees arrive to Utah, organizations turn to community for housing support

A photo of a 'for rent' sign in a front yard.
Brian Albers
Catholic Community Services are asking landlords who have available units to contact them, as they search for housing for refugees.

Utah resettlement agencies are expecting more than 100 Afghan refugees to arrive by the end of October. As organizations like Catholic Community Services prepare to welcome arrivals, they say there’s a big need for housing.

A majority of the 765 refugees are expected to resettle in Salt Lake County. Aden Batar, migration and refugee services director for CCS, said that’s because the county has the infrastructure to support and integrate them.

“There's a lot of services available with the schools, with the adult education, with the transportation and other services that these folks are in need of when they arrive,” Batar said.

But a major issue they’re facing is finding housing as more people start to arrive. The search comes as Utah finds itself in the midst of a housing crisis.

Paul Smith, executive director of the Utah Apartment Association, has been working with the International Rescue Committee and CCS to connect them with landlords who can provide units.

He said it might take a couple of weeks to find long-term solutions but the county does have the capacity to support new arrivals.

“Not all landlords have vacancies at any one time,” Smith said. “Vacancies just happen when they happen, but we have the owners and managers of over 20,000 units in Salt Lake County willing to help when they have vacancies.”

Smith said if there are no open housing options, IRC and CCS will move refugees into hotels while they wait.

Batar said their goal is to get people into permanent, affordable housing to start the integration process and they need the community’s help to fill in the gaps. He said hopes to secure up to 200 units for refugees.

“Our message to the community, especially to landlords, is if they have any units available, they can call us,'' Batar said. “We will guarantee to pay the rent. That's not a problem, we just need units available to be rented to the refugees.”

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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