For a second year, faith leaders Larry Hovis and Chris Mitchell will ride 160 miles across the eastern part of the state this weekend.
Their goal? To raise money and awareness for refugee housing needs in North Carolina as many Afghans continue to arrive over the next few weeks.
Without credit scores or steady income, refugees often struggle to find long-term housing. With enough support, refugee resettlement agencies and their community partners can help the families pay security deposits and other fees to increase their likelihood of being accepted for an apartment, townhouse, or rental home.
Last year’s ride, their first, raised over $21,000.
Hovis is the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) in Winston-Salem, and Mitchell is a deacon and active member of Zebulon Baptist Church, about 25 miles east of Raleigh.
“Of course, with the Afghan crisis, interest in helping refugees is very high right now,” Hovis shared in a statement. “Though our ride pales in comparison to what these families actually endure, Welcome Ride is symbolic of their journey.”
The name “Welcome Ride” is a nod to the Fellowship’s Welcome House Network, a ministry dedicated to sheltering newly arrived immigrants and refugees. There are currently 24 church-sponsored houses throughout North Carolina managed by volunteers.
“We hope it provides an invitation and appeal to every CBFNC congregation to join the mission of embracing vulnerable neighbors in their specific communities,” Hovis said.
Counting on the community
On Friday, Church World Service Raleigh-Durham welcomed several families resettling in Durham The organization is one of five government-approved refugee resettlement agencies in the Triangle helping Afghan families reach their final destinations after days, sometimes weeks, stationed at military bases across the U.S.
Another organization, World Relief Durham, shared in its most recent newsletter that 14 Afghan evacuees will also be arriving in Durham within the next few weeks.
Kokou Nayo, refugee community organizer and spokesperson for Church World Service, confirmed that his team found temporary housing for at least four months for each of it families. Still, he says, they are on the lookout for long-term options.
“Anyone arriving tomorrow has a place to stay, a warm cultural food awaiting them, and someone who speaks their language to meet them,” Nayo said. “To provide refugees with decent housing, CWS relies immensely on community members and our housing partners.”
“We are very grateful and thankful to be working in a community where people could reach out and offer rooms in their apartments and houses to help with the housing issue,” Nayo said.
In September, The News & Observer reporter that the Triangle’s three agencies will resettle more than half of the projected 1,169 Afghan refugees coming to North Carolina cities over the next six months.
‘It means a lot’
Nayo said efforts like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s bicycle ride are great ways to raise awareness for refugee housing issues. Welcome House Raleigh, one of the Welcome House Network homes, is a partner of Church World Service.
Last week, Nayo said, he got a call from a father in Asheville whose 11-year-old daughter had started her own non-profit to support the organization’s work with Afghan refugees.
“It means a lot to see the community coming up with creative ways like this to help the cause,” he said. “This is one example out of many of how people can help. Volunteer with us, create a welcoming team to set up apartments, join our advocacy team, and donate.”
If you want to help with refugee housing, contact James Albergotti, Church World Service RDU housing coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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