JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Refugees are coming to America. Afghanis are escaping the Taliban by the thousands and the first coast will be home to several hundred as they resettle in their new life safe from the terrorist organization which has targeted many groups, especially women and children.
Catholic Charities of Jacksonville will be taking in 150 refugees starting Sept. 1. It’s officially called the Afghan Parolee Support Program.
The 7-month resettlement program includes housing, English classes, employment and childcare help.
The U.S. says they expect to take in 50,000 refugees.
“These are individuals that are fleeing the country for fear of their lives basically, out of safety concerns, fear of persecution," says Matt Schmitt, Associate Director for the Catholic Charities of Jacksonville. "You’ve heard stories about the atrocities in the past against women and children. There’s no guarantee, there is no feeling, that they can take the Taliban on their word that things are going to be different.”
Schmitt runs the resettlement program which is federally funded and reports to United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which reports to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
This organization has been homing refugees on the first coast for 40 years, but Schmitt says this is unlike anything he's helped with before.
“We’ve never experienced anything like this in my time," Schmitt says. "I’ve been here 8 years now. In my time here, we’ve never experienced anything like this. Nothing of a humanitarian crisis on this scale.”
Schmitt says they'll need more help from the community during this time ranging from furniture donations to volunteers to pick up families at the airport.
“Refugees, whether it’s Afghanis or any other nation, they don’t want to leave their country," Schmitt explains. "It’s what they know. It’s what they love. But when circumstances get this bad and they are forced to flee for their lives, they cannot return to their home country until that safety has been returned.”
You can also donate by purchasing items on their Amazon wish list, donating new or slightly used furniture, or volunteering in the warehouse.