All Atterbury refugees could be resettled by end of year

Some of the more than seven-thousand Afghan refugees temporarily housed at Camp Atterbury will be staying in Indiana permanently.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says about 250 refugees so far will make Indiana their new home. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry announced last week 75 Afghans would be settling there. Aaron Batt, D-H-S’s lead coordinator at Camp Atterbury for the resettlement operation, says others so far have left the base for Indianapolis, Bloomington, Muncie, Hammond, South Bend, Terre Haute and Columbus.

About 7,200 Afghans have been housed temporarily at Camp Atterbury. Batt says about half have been resettled so far. The department’s goal is to finish processing the rest by New Year’s.

State Department representative Christine Elder says Indiana has been “the gold standard” in helping Afghans adjust to their new lives and get resettled. Governor Holcomb says he was inspired by what he describes as the look of hope on the faces of refugees who fled chaos at home and now see a path to peace and security opened to them.

“That peace is priceless, and it fuels us to want to do more,” Holcomb says.

Holcomb says individual Hoosiers have recognized a shared responsibility, and met it. He says he’s heard secondhand of several companies offering jobs to dozens of refugees, and promising to work around language barriers or other difficulties.

Cole Varga with the resettlement agency Exodus says many of those jobs have been low-skill warehouse jobs with companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart, which are trying to add staff amid a labor shortage and the approaching holiday rush. But Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne says there have been offers of help from just about every industry sector.

Part of the DHS mission at the camp is to assess refugees’ job skills, and steer them into either job training or adult education programs to get them ready for life in the United States. Varga says Exodus has used federal funding to help Afghans with their first couple of months of expenses in new homes, including rent, utilities and Internet service, to help them get their feet under them. And the state is still coordinating donations of clothes, toys, and personal items like nail clippers.

Donations of diapers and baby formula are also needed. 30 women have given birth since arriving at Camp Atterbury.

Story courtesy of Network Indiana.

Photo credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Collin S. MacKown, 14th Public Affairs Detachment. Spc. William Shafer, a soldier assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, distributes cold weather gear to Afghan guests as part of Operation Allies Welcome at Camp Atterbury, Ind., Nov. 3rd. Donated winter apparel received for Afghan guests included coats, shoes, hats, and gloves.