ST. LOUIS — It's the biggest resettlement of refugees in a seven-day period since 2005.
Just last week, nearly 120 Afghans made their way to the St. Louis area with 300 arrivals expected in the following weeks.
Organization leaders said they're doing everything they can to make them feel at home.
CEO of the International Institute Arrey Obenson said they are alerted of arrivals 24 to 48 hours prior. There could be flight changes, however, which could switch up plans.
Obenson said the best way to manage this process is to put arrivals in transitional housing.
New arrivals are currently placed in three hotels because housing still needs to be arranged. Some are also staying with family until a home is available.
Obenson said it takes time to get an apartment.
They have to learn the demographics of the family, work with the landlord, and get the home ready.
The average size of families coming is 5.5 people, but there are larger families, which makes it harder to find a home.
"We need apartments with three to four bedrooms. We need about 200 of those apartments," Obenson shares.
He said one to two bedrooms are easier to find and they are looking for about 60 of them.
Plus, a set of extra hands is greatly needed.
Forty volunteers a day are wanted, 20 in the morning and afternoon, for home set up, office support, grocery shopping, appointments and airport pick up.
Transportation is also crucial.
"Transportation is a huge problem as people settle in hotels, we need to get them here," Obenson said.
Refugees can go to the institute to get access to benefits and services. When arriving, they also need to do an assessment.
"Once done with the assessment, we need to start English language classes and preparing them for work," Obenson said.
The organization Welcome Neighbor STL is raising $5,000 for Uber and Lyft gift cards.
This will not only help arriving refugees, but also Washington University students who are needing a ride to the International Institute.
These students will tutor those needing to learn English.
If you'd like to donate, click here.
As for the folks at the House of Goods, they've already been doing the heavy lifting.
For six days straight, the crew has been visiting Afghan refugees at all three hotels.
Task Manager Lisa Grozdanic shares, "We've been delivering them hot meals, clothing, and hygiene products. They are larger families one family has 11 children."
Grozdanic explains one group was at the Hollywood Casino & Hotel in Maryland Heights, but moved to the Extended Stay America so families can have a kitchen and be able to do laundry. The other groups are at two hotels in downtown St. Louis.
The charity house is under the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and Grozdanic believes it's their staff that's able to make our new neighbors feel a bit more at home.
"Us as Muslims they felt more secure to move, we ensured them that everything is going to be okay," she says.
She says volunteers are needed to organize, but donations too.
LIST OF DONATIONS:
- Snacks for children, gelatin free
- Hot Tea
- Tea kettles
- Beds and couches (good clean condition and disinfected)
Grozdanic says they will give free furniture to families once they get housing. She explains you can drop it off at their 5911 SW Avenue location in St. Louis from Monday thru Thursday 8AM to noon and Saturday 9AM to 2PM.
You can drop off donations in the back.
Owner Mohammed Qadadeh is also stepping in to help.
Tuesday morning, as he assembles falafels, he knows it's more than just creating a meal. Each bite is making an impact.
The American Falafel founder partnered with Welcome Neighbor STL and Legacies for Refugees and Immigrants to help the new arrivals.
"I visited a lot of refguee camps, so I've seen first hand that kind of suffering that refugees go through. That's why I wanted to help them and see them integrated in the St. Louis community," Qadadeh says.
Through a 'donate a meal' option, all of the money will go directly to the International Institute.
Qadadeh will offer it until the end of the year.
Obenson shares these efforts of resettlements will continue into March.
If you'd like to donate or volunteer to help with the institute, click here.