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One year after U.S. withrawal, Maine organizations continue to support Afghan evacuees

The Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine and Catholic Charities are licensed resettlement agencies in the state and have supported Afghans fleeing violence.

PORTLAND, Maine — Just more than one year after the U.S. Military's withdrawal from Afghanistan, community organizations in Maine have continued to support those fleeing the violence. 

Catholic Charities Maine (CCM) and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine (JCA) are both licensed resettlement agencies that have worked closely with Afghans arriving in Maine.

"We just started an integrated service delivery program, which is helping families with computer literacy, digital literacy, and financial literacy," Siobhan Whalen said. Whalen serves as refugee resettlement program manager for the JCA. 

JCA was named a licensed resettlement agency though HIAS less than a year ago. Since then, Whalen says they've helped welcome and resettle 38 Afghan evacuees and refugees. 

Licensed resettlement agencies like the JCA and CCM are contracted to support refugees for 90 days, by connecting them to resources like food, housing, and enrolling children in school. After the 90 days, those organizations continue their support, however, and also connect groups to non-profits and other community resources.

Charles Mugabe is the acting program co-director for CCM Resettlement Services. Mugabe says CCM has helped resettle 115 Afghans in the last year.

"We help them enroll them in schools. We're able to enroll them in public benefits. Most of them got Maine health care coverage," Mugabe said. 

One of the main challenges facing resettlement organizations is finding suitable housing for new Mainers to live in.

"The biggest challenge is finding property management companies and independent landlords who are willing to kind of take a leap of faith in a way," Whalen said. "Because our families don't have a credit score, they don't have a rental history, and some of them are still looking for employment."

Whalen says they've worked to resettle new Mainers in communities outside of the Greater Portland area. Whalen adds that Brunswick has become an area they've helped resettle in, and even recently resettled an Afghan family in Waterville.

"It does take somebody who's willing to provide refuge, someone who is willing to support someone from halfway around the world in starting and rebuilding their lives," Whalen said. 

CCM and JCA have also worked to help resettle hundreds of refugees in Maine from various countries around the world so far this year.

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