The History of SLO4Home

Who can forget the gut-wrenching photos and video coming out of the Kabul Airport when the United States departed from Afghanistan in August and September 2021, leaving behind thousands of Afghans who had helped our military, our diplomatic staff and NGOs, many with promises of being able to immigrate to the United States? In the fall of 2021 two friends, Dr. Vance Rodgers and Lauren Brown, Ph.D., committed to finding a way to help these vulnerable families. That led to co-founding and incorporating SLO4Home as a 501c3 non-profit in December 2021 with the intention of helping resettle a limited number of Afghan families to the San Luis Obispo area. Upon reaching out to key groups and individuals in San Luis Obispo, we were gratified with how many people shared our concern. In short order, we had the growing support of multiple faith groups (Christian and Jewish Congregations, the Islamic Mosque of Nasreen), various public service organizations (Rotary, Kiwanis and others), retired military veterans, various local governmental officials, Chamber of Commerce.

We assembled a strong 5-member Board of Directors who helped guide the first year of our work. One vital task was fund-raising since the idea of helping resettle families to the Central Coast is daunting from a financial standpoint. One of our Board Members, Ermina Karim, introduced us to a very successful local businessman, Rick Stollmeyer, who pledged $300,000 which we have used over the past two years as a matching grant, helping to motivate other donors with the prospect of having their donations doubled.

Another key step was developing a relationship with Church World Service (CWS), one of the nine agencies authorized by the U.S. State Department, to help facilitate the legal immigration of refugees to the U.S. By April 2022 CWS had connected us with our first refugee family from Afghanistan, Abdullah, Sophia and their 4-year-old daughter, Arsh.

While our journey started with the intention of focusing only on Afghan families, it soon became clear that our approach of providing intensive support would benefit families from war torn countries around the world. With the encouragement of CWS, we also welcomed three Syrian families, soon to be followed by families fleeing the war in Ukraine. Building off of the lessons learned in supporting the first family, we have implemented a plan of holistic support for each family. As of June, 2024 we have now helped to resettle 3 Afghan, 3 Syrian and 3 Ukrainian families, who are resettled in several communities in the Central Coast, including Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria and touching the lives of 26 individual refugees. We are anticipating additional Afghan and Ukrainian families during the remainder of 2024.

SLO4Home currently has a very capable 7-member Board of Directors. One of their accomplishments was to conduct an important 5-Year Strategic Planning Retreat which led to updating our Mission Statement, Vision Statement and Core Values and outlining our goals for the next 5 years. As we have welcomed more families, the incredible need for quality refugee resettlement services became clear and our mission adjusted from a time limited project to an enduring organization dedicated to assisting vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives here on the Central Coast.

 

Key characteristics of SLO4Home:

  • Capacity to resettle 4-6 families per year
  • Emphasis on intensive support for each family, aiming to help them achieve independent status within 12 months after arrival.
  • Each family has dedicated volunteer who assist them and provide social connect from day one through at least the first year.
  • The support includes providing:
    • Instruction in English as a second language
    • Housing
    • Transportation
    • Tools needed for participating in a modern economy, such as cell phones, computer and software, internet connectivity
    • Help with accessing publicly available resources such as Medi-Cal and Cal-Fresh
    • Identifying legal resources for applying for asylum
    • Assistance with job searches and enhancing career skills
    • Creating a sense of belonging to an extended family, with caring friends
    • Nurturing in our communities greater diversity, inclusion and respect for other cultures
  • Achieving these goals is accomplished by a team of more than 75 volunteers, multiple committees and strong financial support from our communities.

Lauren Brown (he, him), Secretary of Board or Directors and Co-Founder, July 2024