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Massachusetts Prepares To Welcome 900 Refugees From Afghanistan

LOWELL (CBS) - Massachusetts is preparing to welcome as many as 900 evacuees from Afghanistan, who are currently staying at U.S. military bases across the country. "They left quickly and suddenly and left everything behind," said Jeff Thielman who heads the The International Institute of New England, a resettlement organization.

That's the kind of trauma Thielman says they are quickly preparing to handle. "They are going to need a place to live, clothing, a school system to put their kids in, medical attention," Thielman said.

The Institute is now putting it all together in a much faster timeframe than usual, given how quickly the many Afghans were evacuated. They're now finding classrooms and apartments, many in Lowell where their community health center is located.

Case manager Alan Falcon, who was a refugee from Iraq when he arrived in the U.S. in 2010, understands the trauma. "It is stressful, really stressful, I can feel what they feel," said Falcon.

He's working on finding apartments and says landlords want assurances. "I have the ability to convince landlords these refugees are fully motivated and they can get a job," Falcon said.

The federal government is providing each evacuee with $1,225.00 which is only a start.

There are other challenges, says Aimee Mitchell, whose Worcester organization Ascentria is also resettling evacuees. "They're not eligible for benefits so we're fundraising to pay for rent, buy food, buy clothes," said Mitchell.

It's not just logistics, but Aziza Hamidi who handles legal services, says it's the culture shock of living among Americans they will feel as well. "The way Americans live is completely different from Afghanistan including working, housing and all the paperwork," Hamidi said.

It's not yet clear when the call will come. The timeframe and even the number of evacuees is still in flux, but some groups believe it is a matter of weeks.

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