Refugee resettlement may double in southwest Kansas in 2017

SWKS could see as many as 140 new refugees in 2017.
SWKS could see as many as 140 new refugees in 2017.

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Southwest Kansas welcomed 67 new refugees to the area in 2016, just shy of the 80 the International Rescue Commission was authorized to re-settle, but that number could soar this year.

“We do have the capacity to settle 140,” said Amy Longa, who manages the southwest Kansas site of the Commission. “I do not know how many we’ll end up settling by the end of the fiscal year.”

It depends on many factors at play in the international resettlement efforts, but the number of new refugees settling in Dodge, Liberal, and Garden could potentially double this year over last year.

Refugees who settle in southwest Kansas are often joining family members already living here, but in some cases, they still need a place to live.

The housing shortage in the region is an obstacle, but it is being addressed.

“We’re now seeing a little more opportunity with the recent building,” said Carol Davidson with Garden City Community Development, “and we also have plans in the future, this next year 2017, we do have a development that’s going in.”

“19 duplexes, 12 fourplexes, and five 36-unit apartment complexes,” said Cory Hodapp, who owns the company building a new housing complex in Garden City. “We’ll have half of the duplexes and half of the fourplexes complete this year.”

Some of the homes will be available this year, but 180 rentals will be built in 2018 and 2019. All in all, this one complex will house 266 families.

It’s good news for the IRC, which competes with the market to help find homes for refugees.

“What we have been working on the past two years is reaching out to landlords and creating partnerships with landlords to create housing,” said Longa. “Not only in Garden City, but in Dodge and Liberal as well.”

Many landlords gladly welcome refugees as their tenants, like Garden Spot Apartments on Mary Street in Garden City. The complex houses about 100 Somalis who arrived to Garden as refugees to restart their lives.

Last year, we told you about a state grant Garden City applied for to help build Hodapp’s complex. They did not receive the grant, but the developer is still building the homes without help from the state.