Bay Area humanitarian groups prepare to welcome Afghanistan refugees

The Tampa City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday supporting Afghan refugees to Tampa, if they choose to relocate there after fleeing the chaos in Kabul.

The Biden administration has asked humanitarian aid groups to prepare to assist as many as 50,000 refugees. Bay Area organizations, including Radiant Hands and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke at the city council meeting and are now lining up to help refugees settle into the Tampa Bay area.

"When we've seen these kinds of crises erupt before our eyes, we've experienced the same thing we're experiencing now, which is an outpouring of support," said Sylvia Acevedo with Gulf Coast Jewish Family Community Services. "[We're seeing] individuals wanting to volunteer, individuals wanting to donate their time as volunteers. So that tells me and tells all of us that this is and has been a welcoming community."

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It's unclear how many families will end up settling in the Tampa Bay area. Acevedo said her organization has helped about a half dozen families who were able to escape before the violence began.

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"We're prepared to do what we've done for years and for over 20 years, which is provide comprehensive services to newly-arrived individuals," she said, adding refugees will need homes and jobs, among other things, because many have to start over once they've arrived. "We're providing intensive case management services, really all geared towards attaining early self-sufficiency so that they can provide for their own families the way they were back home in their countries. No one wants to have a hand-out, so immediately folks want to get working and the children in school and they want to move forward."

City Councilman Luis Viera proposed the resolution to welcome Afghan refugees to the area.

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"So many of these people helped the American mission, so again, I just want a welcoming culture here in Tampa," Viera said. "My parents and grandparents and great grandmother were Cuban refugees who came here in 1960 and always say that the level of compassion that we experienced on so many accounts 60 years ago should still be available to people today."

Acevedo said her organization, like many other humanitarian aid groups, relies on support from the community especially during times of crisis. The organization is in need of donations of time and money. She said there will likely be an increasing need for landlords to help with unused rental properties or even families to offer open rooms in their homes.

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