Responding to the Housing Needs of Asylum Seekers in Puget Sound
Since 2015, LCS Northwest has helped 2125 asylum seekers in Puget Sound find a path to stability and hope with comprehensive case management services through our Refugees Northwest program.
Asylum seekers face numerous challenges to self-sufficiency. They usually don’t qualify for federal benefits and must often wait up to 18 months to be eligible to work. This makes them vulnerable to housing instability and food insecurity. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation even further.
Thanks to new resources, we are better equipped to respond to the housing needs of asylum seekers.
McKenzie Nassiri is the Housing Assistance Coordinator for Refugees Northwest. She helps asylum seekers navigate the process to qualify for and receive help to secure housing or remain in existing housing. McKenzie has access to several resources to assist qualifying asylees, including:
- Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program (EPRAP) can provide up to 12 months worth of rent assistance to households facing financial hardships due to COVID-19 and are at risk of losing their housing. These funds are available to King County households and there are no citizenship or immigration status restrictions, McKenzie noted. The average household can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 in rent assistance.
- Asylum Housing Assistance Program (AHAP) funds are available to asylum seekers who are receiving case management services through Refugees Northwest and reside in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
“These funds are meant to be a bridge between the time an asylum seeker files for work authorization and they find a job,” McKenzie said. “This can be several months.”
Eligible program participants can receive up to six months of assistance. For a single adult, $2250 is the maximum amount of program subsidy. A family can be eligible for up to $4000 over six months.
“Our most successful AHAP candidates have just started a job,” McKenzie explained. “They can demonstrate to a landlord that they have steady income but they don’t have the money to put down for a security deposit or other up front costs.”
AHAP also plans to offer Renter Education workshops in the near future.
Most asylum seekers cannot produce credit, rental or employment history in the US for a prospective landlord. LCS Northwest is developing a partnership with Housing Connector to overcome these barriers.
“Housing Connector will help us connect asylees in need of housing to landlords willing to give them a chance,” McKenzie explained. “Our commitment is to provide case management and support services to help our newly housed clients succeed.”
Asylum seekers who have not yet received work authorizations face the biggest hurdles. It’s challenging to find landlords who are willing to accept minimal rent for a period of time as the client goes through the process to qualify for and find work.
“AHAP can’t offer enough of a financial subsidy to attract many property owners,” McKenzie stated. “I’m trying to connect with small mom and pop landlords who believe in our mission enough to give our clients a chance. It can be a slow process.”