Refugees Confront Homelessness Once Again in the U.S.

Aug 31, 2010
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.
Anas Rahma, a refugee from Darfur, celebrates being granted U.S. citizenship. (Jeff Topping/Reuters)

Many refugees from war-torn countries such as Somalia, Myanmar and Iraq have been granted asylum in the U.S.

But once they they reach the States, reality is not always as hopeful as they imagined.

Since 1975, 2.5 million refugees have fled their homelands and resettled in the U.S. Many of the new arrivals succeed in building a better life for themselves and their families. Many others are again left stranded, homeless and fighting for survival.

One such family is An Na and her three children.

Reported by The Seattle Times, the family—ethnic Karenni from Myanmar—resettled in Washington in 2009. Before coming to the U.S., they were living in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burmese border.

Today, the family is again on the verge of homelessness. An Na does not speak English, and her son and daughter quit high school to find work.

Working for a local nonprofit, An Na's 17-year-old daughter says, "We need to work for the family because our parents don't understand nothing. We need to support them." She added, "There are a lot of us kids in this situation."

Lal Subba is a Bhutanese refugee struggling to make ends meet in Dallas. Reported by The Dallas Morning News, he said, "I see people under the bridge and I think, 'Will that be me?'"

Subba was in danger in Bhutan because of his Nepali ancestry, and he was unable to go to Nepal because of his refugee status.

Resettled in the U.S., Subba found work as a part-time dishwasher. It took him three months to find a job, and he is still only making $64 a day.

Walid and Samira Waheed are Iraqi refugees who resettled in Boise, Idaho. In 2009, they were weeks away from being evicted from their home.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is an organization that helps  families like the Waheeds and Subbas resettle in the U.S.

When refugees arrive to the U.S., the IRC supports them by providing food, shelter, medical care and funds. Although the assistance doesn't last forever, it helps refugees have a fresh start.

In a recent report, A Tough Road Home: Uprooted Iraqis in Jordan, Syria and Iraq, the IRC commented on the need for more government assistance for refugees.

The United States must continue to lead the way in giving sanctuary to the most vulnerable Iraqis who cannot return home and keep reforming its resettlement program to ensure that new arrivals have sufficient support to successfully restart their lives.

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