Are you a service provider beginning to connect with sponsors for Ukrainian newcomers? Are you fielding questions about affordable housing for this population? This blog post is for you! Developed in partnership with Refugee Housing Solutions, this post describes how Ukrainians arrive in the U.S. and provides housing tips to share with sponsors for these new neighbors.
Understanding Ukrainian Resettlement
Ukrainians who are fleeing violence can enter the United States through several avenues. Traditional pathways such as refugee status, asylum, and various types of visas are viable for some Ukrainians. But many are also entering the U.S. as Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees (UHPs) through the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program. Though UHPs have the right to access the same programs and services as many other newcomers, a few key differences distinguish UHPs from other groups:
Systems of Support
Typically, refugee resettlement agencies work with the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) to provide initial support for refugees arriving through the Reception and Placement (R&P) program. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) U4U program, however, is based on a sponsorship model that connects supporters—qualifying community members of lawful status in the U.S.—with Ukrainians fleeing violence.
Individuals or groups interested in sponsoring Ukrainian newcomers must prove their ability to financially support a UHP for the duration of their parole (up to two years). According to USCIS, supporters must also be ready to assist beneficiaries in the following ways:
- Meeting the newcomer when they arrive in the U.S. and transporting them to their housing
- Ensuring safe and appropriate housing for the duration of parole
- Assisting the newcomer in completing paperwork for employment authorization, a Social Security card, etc.
- Assisting the newcomer in accessing health care and ensuring that their medical needs are met for the duration of the parole
- As appropriate, assisting the newcomer with accessing education, learning English, securing employment, and enrolling children in school
Beyond the support of their welcomers, UHPs may be eligible for mainstream federal benefits (TANF, SSI, and SNAP) as well as Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)-funded assistance and services. Such ORR benefits—Refugee Cash Assistance, Refugee Medical Assistance, Matching Grant Program, Domestic Medical Screening, and Employment Assistance, among other specialized programs—are also based on eligibility.
Housing Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees
Housing is an essential aspect of care for any newcomer, including UHPs. Currently, there are no established housing requirements or guidelines through the U4U program. Some private sponsorship programs, such as Welcome Corps, follow best practices. Welcome Corps’ Private Sponsor Group Welcome Plan states that private sponsor groups are required to secure safe, sanitary, affordable housing for Ukrainian newcomers for the duration of the sponsorship. They also note it is important that the newcomer be able to assume payment of their rent by the end of the sponsorship period.
Housing Resources to Share with Sponsors
Though our national capacity to welcome newcomers is expanding with the U4U program, certain technical aspects of resettlement may be difficult or overwhelming for new sponsors. This includes locating safe, sanitary, and affordable housing. Below are some tips for navigating the housing market that you can share with sponsors supporting Ukrainian newcomers:
Options for Short-Term Housing Upon Arrival
Newcomers often need to be present in the U.S. to sign a lease. Therefore, UHPs typically require temporary housing accommodations when they first arrive. These short-term units must be furnished and equipped with an adequate number of rooms, including a functioning kitchen. Such options can include:
- Hotels with accessible kitchenettes
- Airbnb units
- Separate living spaces attached to private homes
- Hosting within the sponsor’s home
Securing Long-Term Housing
Sponsors can help search for safe, sanitary, and affordable long-term housing on the following platforms:
Landlords typically place ads one to two months before a unit becomes available. Sponsors should therefore be proactive in searching for housing. They can even begin the search before the Ukrainian newcomers’ arrival.
If the newcomer family qualifies for public housing or rental assistance programs, sponsors can tap into the following resources:
- Sponsors can contact their local Public Housing Authority at the beginning of their search to help them get started.
- AffordableHousing.com is the largest search engine for finding income-based properties. It also provides updates on housing authority waitlists.
- My Housing Search is an affordable rental housing locator.
- Affordable Housing Finance compiles a list of the top 50 affordable housing developers each year. Sponsors can directly inquire with these developers about rental availability.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Resource Locator offers assistance locating affordable housing and public housing resources.
- Sponsors can reference State-funded Housing Assistance Programs for a list of key contacts for refugee housing assistance programs by state.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers programs that provide housing and community development assistance across the U.S. Visit the HUD website to learn more about affordable housing in your area.