Iraqi refugees find new Houston sponsor

Yousif Ali, left, and Nawfal Muhamed
Yousif Ali, left, and Nawfal Muhamed

A fund has been established to help two gay Iraqi refugees living in Houston.

The story of Yousif Ali and Nawfal Muhamed first appeared in Dallas Voice when they were here for the Creating Change conference.

Since the article appeared, the Houston GLBT Community Center and a gay Muslim support group have been helping them navigate the U.S. system and get services normally provided to refugees. The problem has been Catholic Charities, the organization that provides many of the federally funded refugee services, that has been unresponsive to the two gay men.

Now, the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church has taken them under their wing to make sure they have enough money for food and other necessities. They have set up a fund to help them. Mark and Becky Edmiston-Lange, the church’s ministers, have kicked the fund off with a donation from their discretionary fund.

Donations are tax deductible and can be sent to the church. Write “Yousif and Nawfal” on the check for the money to go to the fund.

If you would like to help, send a check to:

Emerson UU Church

1900 Bering Dr.

Houston, TX 77057

They are still looking for jobs and are enrolling in classes in Houston’s community college. Nawfal thinks he might like to get into hairdressing. Yousif is more interested in engineering. But they need jobs — full or part-time — now.

If you have any job suggestions for them, please e-mail to:

faithinaction@NWCUUC.org

As refugees they have full legal status in the United States.

—  David Taffet

Refugee organization calls on Catholic Charities to respond to LGBT discrimination detailed in Dallas Voice story

Yousif Ali (left) and Nawfal Muhamad
Yousif Ali (left) and Nawfal Muhamad

A group called Friends For Refugees contacted Dallas Voice today about a story I wrote about two gay Iraqis who are now living in Houston.

We are a small citizens group, a watchdog, that monitors the US refugee resettlement program nationally to see that the program’s requirements are being carried out as required by the private refugee resettlement agencies. I have been investigating to find out why Yousif did not receive required items, e.g. furniture.

Christopher Coen wrote that he contacted the Texas state refugee coordinator, Caitriona Lyons. He said he wants to look into Catholic Charities violation of contract with the U.S. State Department. Basic furnishings are “minimum-required items” under their contract.

Catholic Charities is now claiming that the two men moved to a new apartment and that they had minimum required furniture. That furniture was provided after Tim Brookover at the Houston GLBT Community Center intervened and was obtained from sources outside the Catholic Charities network.

Over the last two weeks and the new apartment is after more than half a year of torment at their former apartment. The GLBT Center again was instrumental in finding a new apartment for them.

—  David Taffet