Donations desperately needed for refugee families at Catholic Community Services Sharehouse

Apr 9, 2024, 11:10 PM | Updated: Apr 10, 2024, 11:28 am

SALT LAKE CITYCatholic Community Services of Utah is making a call for help to the community, with a huge spike in the number of refugee families starting a new life in Utah. The Sharehouse is quickly emptying out, and volunteers are worried it’ll leave parents choosing between rent, or household staples.

After a busy day helping families Tuesday, Lucy Anderson restocked items on a shelf inside the Sharehouse in Salt Lake City.

“We are stocking up some disinfectant spray,” she said, grabbing a bottle out of a crate and setting it on a shelf.

Unfortunately, she won’t be able to fully refill all the supplies. Many of the shelves are completely empty, with no items on them.

“Yep, exactly … this is the last four that we have,” Anderson said, grabbing the final bottles and setting them out.

The bare shelves in the CCS Sharehouse were already empty to begin with when their doors opened Tuesday morning. Anderson said she had to tell many of the 15 families they served that day, that they would need to return next month in search of items like large-size diapers, sponges, hand soap, and body wash.

“We are in very short supply, of really, the critical things the refugee families need,” she said.

Refugee and Migration Services Director Aden Batar said they’re going through donations fast, as they see an increase of refugees resettling in Utah. At the same time, they aren’t seeing enough donations coming in.

Dozens of crates that normally hold toiletries and cleaning supplies are empty. They are running low on household items like furniture and kitchenware.

“When they arrive, you know they don’t have nothing except the suitcases that they come with,” Batar said. “So, when we rent an apartment, the apartments are empty. So Catholic Community Services have to use the donated items from the community to set up the apartment.”

According to numbers provided by the organization, in fiscal year 2020, it helped resettle 106 individuals. That number rose slightly to 122, in 2021.

But in 2022 and 2023, that number jumped dramatically to 684 and 878, respectively.

Former refugee recognized by Salt Lake County leaders for helping dozens of others like him

So far in 2024, CCS said it has already helped 411 refugees. Batar explained that this is partly because of a rise in federal immigration approvals, as global crises like the war in Ukraine continue and refugees from Afghanistan who were previously staying at military bases find a more permanent home.

Batar said refugees who have been waiting years to flee places like Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan are now legally arriving in the United States.

“The federal government is telling us that there are more refugees to come,” he said. “So that’s why we are preparing to make sure that we have the items that we need to help the refugees as they come in.”

Shelves normally stocked with clothing, shoes, toiletries, and large-size diapers sit empty at the CCS Sharehouse (Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV)

It desperately needs items like diapers, clothing, cleaning supplies, toiletries, kitchenware, furniture, car seats, and more.

“So the families can come here to our warehouse, to shop things that they cannot purchase,” Batar said.

Anderson stood next to a couple of nearly empty crates on shelves. One usually holds deodorant. The other had a few tubes of toothpaste. She said full shelves make all the difference for families trying to cover costs like rent, so that they can work to get on their feet.

“We like to be able to provide for the refugees,” she said. “So they’re not having to add to their list where they’re going to find toothpaste, or diapers, or cleaning supplies.”

Catholic Community Services of Utah has a full list of items needed on its website, as well as an Amazon wish list. It is also looking for Sharehouse volunteers.

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Donations desperately needed for refugee families at Catholic Community Services Sharehouse