As Afghan refugees continue to arrive in Bowling Green – potentially offering relief to employers searching for workers amid a labor shortage – the International Center is facing one major obstacle: housing.
“We have a major problem with housing,” said Albert Mbanfu, who leads the local refugee resettlement agency as its executive director.
Mbanfu spoke Wednesday to members of the Community Partnership for Refugee and Immigrant families, a cross-sectional community initiative to support the self-sufficiency of those individuals.
“Tell anybody that we are willing to rent,” Mbanfu said, asking the group’s members to help spread the word.
One major stumbling block is that refugees typically don’t have credit scores, which renters use to determine if tenants are trustworthy.
Mbanfu said the International Center can back refugee tenants and make sure the rent is covered throughout the term of a lease. He urged landlords to contact him at the agency’s Bowling Green office by calling 270-781-8336.
Mbanfu said the issue could have consequences for local employers. If it persists, he may have to start looking for rental property outside Bowling Green and Warren County, meaning local employers would be deprived of workers during the labor shortage.
Many Afghan refugees arriving here are already approved to work, only requiring new Social Security cards, which the federal government is expediting, Mbanfu said.
Adults have also received at least one coronavirus vaccine and other immunizations, Mbanfu said.
“The arrivals from Afghanistan will have very little down time before they go to work,” Mbanfu said.
The agency also stands ready to collect any gently used furniture the community wants to donate, Mbanfu said. All that’s required is to call the center to arrange a pickup.
In related news, a media campaign aimed at encouraging Bowling Green’s new workforce to apply for local job vacancies just concluded its initial launch, though its organizer anticipates the campaign will be ongoing.
Leyda Becker, the city’s international communities liaison, updated the Community Partnership for Refugee and Immigrant Families on the campaign’s progress Wednesday.
A New Americans in Warren County report said while new Americans made up 9.3% of the county’s overall population, 25.9% of the employed new Americans living in Warren County commuted outside the county for work in 2016, compared with 14.7% of employed U.S.-born residents.
“We had an incredible engagement,” Becker told the Daily News, describing the success of the media campaign, which leveraged social media and videos to raise awareness about local job opportunities.
The next step is acquainting those who engaged with the campaign online with local employers, Becker said.
“The campaign will be ongoing. We will continue to push it out,” Becker said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.