Syrian refugee family gets help from Orange County organization

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A family of Syrian refugees who arrived in California two months ago said they are grateful to be in the states, but that it hasn't been easy. (KABC)

A family of Syrian refugees who arrived in California two months ago said they are grateful to be in the states, but that it hasn't been easy.

Houssan Alterkmani, his wife Manal, their paralyzed son Koussay, 9, and their two other children spent three years in Jordan. The family fled Syria because of the war, which is now in its fifth year.

Alterkmani said they struggled to make it to the U.S. only to face another struggle. He said the group International Institute of Los Angeles, or IILA, placed them in a Glendale motel, then left them alone for 10 days.

The family does not know any English and without a job, Alterkmani said he did not know what to do until he heard about another resettlement agency in Orange County called the East African Community. The group helped them find an apartment.

Alterkmani said his family receives nearly $950 a month from the U.S. Department of State, but rent is $1,600. Fellow Syrians and other community groups are filling that gap.

The department's figures show more than 1,400 Syrian refugees ended up in California. About 70 of those 1,400, including this family, resettled in Orange County.

Ghada Abouzaken said her family of seven fled Syria and recently arrived in Los Angeles. They were also placed in a Glendale motel by IILA and receipts show they stayed there for about a month, split into two rooms.

She said she cried all the time, claiming the motel had bed bugs. She took photos of bug bites on her son. The family said they received more help when they came to Orange County.

The president of IILA said he cannot speak about individual cases, but said the incidents the families talked about should not have happened.

"The cost of living in Southern California is one of the challenges," he said. "We have to find something affordable. But overcrowding should not happen. Bed bugs should never happen."

Alterkmani said his goal is to learn English and find a job to provide for his family.

Related Topics:
non-profitsyriarefugeesmoneyfamilyWestminsterOrange County
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