How refugees in the DMV are impacted by COVID-19

By Dana Lea, Director of Community Outreach

LSSNCA staff is working remote as much as possible – though some services and client emergencies must be handled in person. We commend our LSSNCA heroes that are continuing to work directly with clients to respond to their needs, continue coming into the office to take care of organizational operations, and lend their muscles to picking-up and moving furniture into newly arrived families’ homes.
Our staff has also been picking-up the phone and calling clients, partners, and donors for mental and physical health ‘check-ins,’ as well as, to learn about the impacts COVID-19 is having on them and how we can best respond.
impacts of covid-19
From these calls, we’ve learned about the following impacts on our families:
  • Employment layoffs and reduced hours – particularly in the service, hospitality, and ride-share industries;
  • Difficultly in securing employment for newly arrived clients – as many businesses have closed their doors, laid off their employees, or are overwhelmed by job applications for the few open positions;
  • Issues with employment are leading to reduced incomes and increased need for temporary cash assistance for rent, utilities, groceries, etc;
  • Increased feelings of isolation and insecurity:
    • Some clients have limited English proficiency and lack the knowledge about available resources in their communities due to their recent arrival;
    • Many clients are unable to develop confidence and self-sufficiency in finding things they need and resolving their programs independently;
    • A reluctance to ask for support or assistance because they do not want to be a burden to their new community;
    • For many, a return to stress, fear, and the “emergency mindset” they left behind in Afghanistan or a refugee camp.
Two newly-arrived Afghan clients we spoke with this week, Mr.s Amini and Hakim (they asked us not to share their real names), shared the impact the health emergency is having on their families. They also shared their many thanks to LSSNCA staff for helping them along the way.
Mr. HakimMr. Hakim arrived with his family of seven in January to Northern Virginia and is employed as a driver by Amazon. His hours at work have been reduced and therefore has had impacts on his ability to pay rent. Though he did not ask for help initially, he says he is thankful to LSSNCA for helping them make their rent payments. Despite knowing English, the family is so new to their community that they feel “blind” to the resources that might be available to families in need at this time.
Mr. Amini’s family arrived in Northern Virginia in November. Thankfully, Mr. Amini works in construction and his job is considered essential. Reflecting on his arrival to the U.S., he said, we had “culture shock upon arrival. Everything you see around you is different. Those coming from Afghanistan, might have little money saved. I was a construction engineer in Afghanistan, and had saved money in Afghani currency,” but when coming here that money was worth much less and the cost of living was much higher.
Mr. Amini is thankful that LSS helped pay a month and a half of rent and filled their home with furnishings and supplies. “These are some things that an immigrant person can be helped to stand on their own feet. Helps take some of the pressure off of you and you can focus on finding a job.” Thanks to the guidance and help LSS and his case managers gave him, “I am able to pay my rent, able to bring food for my family. It was a really helpful process.”
Both men agreed to speak about their families and experiences with resettlement because they believe non-profits, like LSS, should be supported to continue the work of helping newly arrived refugees and immigrants.
“I am saying this for all the families who have arrived recently and arriving. Lots of difficulties for those people and families.” – Mr. Hakim
“I know how this is important for new immigrants. I can feel it and I can understand. We must transfer our experience to help get funding for future immigrants.” – Mr. Amini

Please consider supporting LSSNCA and our emergency assistance fund. Spring into action today and become an LSS Hero!


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