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Refugee Resettlement Agency Facing Housing Challenges

Lisa Autry

Bowling Green resettled more refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo over a recent three-month period than from any other country. The size of some of those Congolese families is presenting challenges when it comes to finding living arrangements.

Evelina Gevorgiyan is the refugee program manager at the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky. She said many of the Congolese refugees coming from Kentucky have large families, including one with 14 people. But many landlords will only allow two people per bedroom.

“So basically a family of six have to have a three bedroom. But how am I going to deal with a family of 8, 9, 10, 11 or 14 like we did yesterday?” she told WKU Public Radio.  

Gevorgiyan said landlords also often ask to meet the refugees before they agree to let them rent the house or apartment, which is difficult because the house has to be rented and ready for the refugees before they arrive.

“So it’s not easy, they not really understanding what I’m saying. What do you mean the family’s in Africa?” she told WKU Public Radio.

Gevorgiyan said the refugees also don’t have their social security card or any of their official documents until they arrive, making filling out a rental application even more difficult.

She said many of the Congolese families being resettled in Warren County have been living in refugee camps for months, or even years. She said the agency helps refugees with what’s known as “apartment hygiene”, showing them how to keep each room clean and demonstrating how to operate appliances that some refugees have never used before. The resettlement agency also furnishes the apartment and buys groceries for the family.

© 2018 WKU Public Radio

Becca Schimmel is a Becca Schimmel is a multimedia journalist with the Ohio Valley ReSource a collaborative of public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. She's based out of the WKU Public Radio newsroom in Bowling Green.
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