Tent cities coming to a neighborhood near you?

Jumping from Syracuse, NY to Boise, ID this morning, we have another story of US refugees about to be evicted, this time because they have no jobs and their rent subsidies are about to end.

One Iraqi family, brought to the United States from war-torn Baghdad and resettled in Boise with refugee status, may soon face an eviction notice at their new home.

In two weeks, Walid and Samira Waheed and their three children will reach the end of their six months of rental assistance. They have no savings, and, largely because of the declining job market, they have not found work. They do not have rent money for March.

“I am happy in Boise,” Walid Waheed said. “Please help us.”

Waheed is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 1,000 refugees resettled in Idaho in the last year, most expecting to quickly find jobs and become self-sufficient.

But now, with their welcome benefits running out and no work in sight, refugee families are facing the stark possibility of becoming internally displaced people in the very nation that offered them refuge.

Tent cities!  A Boise community manager is shocked to learn there are no solutions.  Although I feel for her, it wasn’t too long ago I read about how wonderful and welcoming Boise was to refugees and immigrants generally.   I’m not sure I can find it now*, but they even reportedly had city benches painted with “welcoming” messages to immigrants.  So the city shares some blame for not looking ahead.

According to community manager Barbara Seguin Du Haime, another two families have funding through March, but come April, she will have nine refugee families facing eviction.

“I was just amazed to learn that there aren’t solutions out there,” she said. “What happens to Boise? Are we going to have tent cities?”

World Relief says they are short $5000 a month for upcoming rents.

Jones said World Relief is still compiling the numbers, but needs about $5,000 a month to continue paying rent for unemployed refugees.

Tent cities in the US or left to die?   Oh, come on, the choice is not that stark.  Many of the refugees we have written about are not on the verge of death where they were, some like the Iraqi family we told you about yesterday were doing o.k. in Jordan.

Moore, at IRC, said communities across the country that have taken in refugees are all facing the same dilemma: a potential wave of refugees losing their housing.

“It’s a real possibility across the country,” Moore said. “It’s almost a question of playing God. Are you going to bring them here to have a difficult resettlement experience, or are you going to leave them there to die?”

How about going to the top dogs at the IRC and asking them to contribute their six figure salaries (from the US taxpayer) to these poor families you are bringing to Boise and other US cities.   Maybe if that happened the refugee spigot would be turned off for awhile.

*Update:   I found it!  The “Welcome the Stranger” campaign.  Now maybe they can use those benches for seating in the tent cities!

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