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Marshall Fire makes housing availability 'uncertain' for group that resettles Afghan refugees

Task Force Boulder isn't sure what housing options will look like in Boulder County with so many fire victims looking for a place to stay.

BOULDER, Colo. — The fallout after the Marshall Fire could delay resettling Afghan families in Boulder County. With more than a thousand homes destroyed, there are a lot of families looking for a temporary place to stay right now.

Because of that, a group helping refugees says they aren't sure how much housing will be available.

Task Force Boulder was started by a group of volunteers, including co-founder Major Chris Liggett. 

Liggett, an active-duty Army officer, helped resettle his interpreter and his family in Lafayette. He worked with his interpreter during a deployment in Afghanistan in 2014. Since the Taliban takeover, Task Force Boulder has helped resettle eight Afghan families in Boulder County.

Some families had to evacuate because of the Marshall Fire, but none of them lost their homes.

"We have a family that just moved into Superior and Louisville, so we immediately we put our task force to work to make sure all of our families were safe," said Liggett. 

So many of their neighbors lost everything they owned, and now they're looking for a temporary home. 

"We have all of these people who are victims to this fire who need to find housing in the area. How is that going to affect us?" said Liggett. 

They're not sure how it will impact their work yet. Liggett said there is a lot of uncertainty. 

Task Force Boulder met a few days after the Marshall Fire to figure out how they were going to respond appropriately. 

"Our policy right now is if we can’t offer a home to an Afghan family, we don’t think it is responsible to bring more Afghans to Boulder," said Kate Leslie, co-founder of Task Force Boulder. "We want to take care of the families that we have here."

Leslie said they want to make sure there is an affordable housing option for Afghan families. Right now, Task Force Boulder looks for homeowners who can offer free or reduced rent for refugees. 

"If we can’t bring families to Boulder, we are going to be helping in other avenues," said Liggett. "We have families who are here and we are going to continue to support them."

Task Force Boulder doesn't see this search for housing as competition with fire victims who are trying to find a home, too. 

"We don’t see these needs in competition to each other. Right? They align in different ways. We can adjust," said Leslie. "The work continues and we support the idea of a community response to crisis."

If resettlement slows down a bit in Boulder County, Task Force Boulder says they are going to work with other communities to help resettle Afghan families elsewhere. 

"We aren’t going to be working any differently, I don’t think," said Liggett. "We are going to be looking for housing  and we have to make the responsible decision to say if we don’t have housing available than we can’t bring any more Afghans here."

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