Eastern Michigan University to host Afghan refugees in campus apartments

A person holds up a sign that reads, "Refugees welcome" in a group of people gathered outside.

YPSILANTI -- Eastern Michigan University, in collaboration with Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County (JFSWC), will host approximately a dozen refugee families from Afghanistan in its campus apartments as part of their resettlement to the United States.

JFSWC is the local resettlement agency assisting with finding homes and providing extensive services to Afghan families and other refugee families throughout Washtenaw county. Last month, JFSWC made the University aware of a critical need for living space for newly arrived Afghan families, and the University expressed an immediate willingness to help. To date, several of these families have been housed in extended-stay hotels in the area after completing extensive processing, background checks, and medical tests. All eligible refugees also have received COVID-19 vaccinations.

The resettlement efforts on Eastern’s campus will also provide volunteer opportunities for Eastern students through JFSWC, both to help ready apartments for use by these families, and to mentor young family members and help them in their acclimation to the area and U.S. culture. The University hopes its community will embrace these opportunities fully and add to the local support network and availability of resources for these families.

While on campus, the families are required to follow all rules, regulations, and procedures required by EMU, including those in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These include: vaccination of all eligible persons; mask-wearing in all indoor public areas on campus; completing an electronic “COVID PASS” Daily Health Screening before visiting EMU’s main campus area; and participating in the University’s COVID-19 testing processes. In addition, the families are required to abide by all of the rules and regulations that are in place for students living in University housing.

"Most of us can’t imagine the challenges and hardships these families have experienced,” said Eastern Michigan University President James Smith. “I'm tremendously pleased that Eastern is able to partner with JFSWC and support its critical resettlement work for these families. For years, our campus has been adorned with banners bearing a simple message: "You Are Welcome Here." Never has that message been more important than it is today. EMU aims to be a place of inclusion. JFSWC is living this message through its important work every day, and we are thrilled to count ourselves among its community partners. We aim to do our very best, along with the support of the entire EMU community, to make our Afghan guests welcomed and supported.”

The families have received stipends to help with their relocation and help to pay for their housing at the same rate that students are charged. The housing arrangement is currently planned to last through April 2022.

“Affordable housing is a huge challenge in this area,” says JFS’ Executive Director, Anya Abramzon. “As we welcome over 300 Afghan newcomers to our community, we are so grateful to EMU for doing their part to help us support this humanitarian crisis.”

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

About Jewish Family Services

Jewish Family Services endeavors to be a trusted and stable source of professional, compassionate and affordable services delivered in a spirit of Jewish values and tradition. Through dedicated staff and volunteers, and in cooperation with a wide range of community partners, JFS strives to be a catalyst to meet the human service needs of all people of Washtenaw County.

Jewish Family Services provides services for all residents of Washtenaw County. We are committed to providing affordable, accessible, holistically-oriented and culturally sensitive care to our clients, whatever their identification, affiliation, lifestyle, background, race, religious creed, or national origin.

December 14, 2021

Written by:
Walter Kraft

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher