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Here's How To Help Afghan Refugees Resettling In Austin

Protesters hold a sign that says "Refugees Welcome."
Pu Ying Huang
Demonstrators stand outside the governor’s mansion in 2015 to protest Gov. Greg Abbott's refusal to allow the state to accept Syrian refugees after a terrorist attack in Paris. In the coming weeks, Texas is expected to receive hundreds of Afghan refugees after the Taliban retook control of their country.

Refugee Services of Texas expects nearly 200 Afghan refugees to be resettled in the Austin area by the end of next month.

The organization has already welcomed 35 people to Austin in the past few weeks, mostly Special Immigrant Visa holders and their families who are fleeing Afghanistan in the fallout of the U.S. military's withdrawal from the country.

"It's been a little chaotic," said Russell Smith, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas.

He said the organization typically receives notice several weeks in advance before welcoming any new arrivals. That way, volunteers can plan to pick people up at the airport and take them to their new apartments, for example.

"Now we're having a day's notice, as little as like four hours' notice. They're in the air. They're coming," Smith said.

But because of how quickly the situation is changing, Smith said the organization is putting Afghan refugees up in hotels, at least for now.

"There are people that are fleeing just kind of the worst situation," he said. "And we're happy to welcome them here, even if it's faster than where we're used to."

Here are some ways the organization said people can help the refugees arriving in the state.

Send Gift Cards

Refugee families can use gift cards to H-E-B, Walmart, Fiesta, or pre-paid gift cards through companies like Visa, to pay for things like groceries, school supplies, rental assistance and utility bills.

Cards purchased digitally can be emailed to Lynn Burdick at or sent via the U.S. Postal Service to 500 East St. Johns Ave.

Help Find Housing

Housing is a huge priority and also one of the biggest obstacles, the organization said. It is looking for connections within the apartment/leasing community.

Leads can be sent to Ryan Johnson at or Kathryn Chuber at


Refugee Services of Texas is looking for a pool of volunteers who can pick up new arrivals from the airport.

They also need help delivering food to those who are newly arrived, especially those staying at hotels. They're looking for a team who can be ready to put in orders and arrange deliveries.

Help Buy Household Goods and Furniture

Once housing is secured, the organization said it wants units to be ready as quickly as possible. It is looking for several apartments' worth of household goods to have on hand. The organization said the average cost for all the items is around $300 when purchased from stores like Walmart or the Dollar Store.

The organization is in the process of updating its Amazon wishlist for the Austin branch, but wishlists for other locations across Texas can be found here.

It is also looking for beds, specifically frames that don't require a box spring, as well as kitchen tables, chairs and couches.

For more information on any of the above opportunities, email Lynn Burdick at

Riane Roldan is the Hays County reporter for KUT, focusing on the costs and benefits of suburban growth. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.
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