PORTLAND (WGME) — After helping the American military for years, they’ve now fled Afghanistan for a better life. And now, as many as 100 evacuees are one step away from resettling here in Maine.
But finding homes for those families won’t be easy.
WGME took a look at where they are now, the housing crisis they’ll face, and how you can help.
The first Afghan evacuees could arrive in Maine as soon as Friday. The exact number is not known at this time, but some will arrive with as little as the clothes on their back.
“They are anxious. And the kids. I talked to the family. Kids are saying ‘I’m tired of wearing these clothes. I want new clothes.’ And they’re asking mom ‘Give me something else to wear,'” said local Afghan community leader Nasir Shir, who knows one of the Afghan families coming to live here.
“They are colleagues of mine. And I’ve been in touch with them for a long, long time,” he said.
“They were one of the lucky ones to get out. Absolutely. We had to use connections like writing letters to senators,” Shir said.
“And luckily for him, his wishes came through. And he was able to go to the airport,” he said.
They and other Afghan families are now being processed at a U.S. military base, undergoing medical screenings and vaccination before being flown to Maine.
Charles Mugabe of Catholic Charities of Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services said he understands what they are going through.
“I was a refugee and I went through the exact same process,” he said.
Catholic Charities of Maine is leading the effort to help the Afghan evacuees.
“Our very first service will be to go pick them up from the airport with interpreters, and maybe some community members so that they can feel welcome in Maine and don’t feel all alone,” Mugabe said.
“Majority of the people want to settle in Portland or Greater Portland,” he said.
“This is where they’ll have greater access to the services they’ll need, and be closer to Afghans already living here,” he said.
Finding housing, though, is still the biggest challenge.
“But we want that to be our priority because we don’t want them to be on the street. We don’t want them to be in the shelter. We want to make sure they have somewhere to stay, either temporary or long-term housing,” Mugabe said.
“We’re ready to take whatever help we can get,” he said.
Anyone who has space to house an Afghan family or would like to donate clothing, cash or home furnishings can reach out to Catholic Charities of Maine.