Afghan refugees, after fleeing brutal conditions, struggle with Bay Area housing

The first time their plane tickets were canceled because they didn’t have a male relative accompanying them on the flight, Marmar Hakim and her mother grappled with the possibility of never leaving Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Then their flights were canceled two more times.

Nine months later, on a hot August day, Hakim strolled the grounds of Notre Dame de Namur University, a small, nonprofit college in San Mateo County. The campus, tucked in a quiet suburban community surrounded by tree-shrouded hills, held a special resonance for the 21-year-old and her mom:

It was their home for two months after they finally made it to the United States.

“To not have to worry about where and how you’re going to live after escaping the Taliban, it’s good,” Hakim told The Chronicle.

The 171-year-old Catholic university is part of a national campaign that asks institutions of higher learning to set aside some student housing for the approximately 76,000 Afghan refugees who have been admitted into the country since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan 12 months ago. The goal of the Every Campus a Refuge program, started in 2015 by Guilford University English professor Diya Abdo, is to convince each American college or university to provide temporary campus housing to at least one refugee family.

Temporary housing “is incredibly important because it removes the stressor of finances,” said Abdo, whose university is in North Carolina.

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