So what happens to people seeking asylum who arrive in the US alone, cannot legally work, and are not part of a housing program like DASH*? The following are real stories from asylum seekers who arrived in DFW before receiving DASH support.
*Note: DASH is the only asylum seeker housing program in DFW and one of only a handful in the nation.
“I found a family that was from my country, and asked if I could live with them. They let me sleep on their couch, but said that I would have to be the house servant. Clean the house, cook the meals, do the laundry, and do anything that they wanted. If I ever needed to do something else, or wanted to leave the house for any reason, they would threaten to kick me out. Every day I felt afraid. If I made a mistake today, maybe tomorrow I would lose my place to stay.”
“I came with a student visa and registered for school with the emergency money my uncle gave to me. At the same time, I started my asylum case with a pro-bono lawyer. My money ran out after only one semester in school. My lawyer said he could not help me with housing, food or school, because that was not his job. I was afraid and did not know where to go. I found a ride with a stranger to another state where I heard there was more help, but still found no place to stay. I asked people I met for food and money. I never thought America would be this cruel.”
“I was so desperate for a place to live that I went to an apartment complex and I knocked on the doors. I asked everyone if there was a person who could help me and give me a place to stay. The only man who offered me a place to stay wanted me to be a prostitute. But I could not do that, so I could not stay.”
“When I got to the U.S., I stayed with a family from my country for almost a year. It was ok in the beginning, but my case was taking so long. They began to ask me every day when my asylum case would be over, when I would get my work permit, and when I would finally leave their house. Their pressure to find a new place to stay was so heavy. Finally, they said that they could not support me any longer. They said I was on my own. The local homeless shelter would not take me because I did not have any documents, only a letter from my lawyer. I went four days without food, sleeping outside in a park.”
“I would prefer to go home to where I came from or to die than to stay at the house where I went, when I first came to America. It was like a prison. I was not allowed to leave the house, talk to people outside, or have friends come to visit. I could not touch or use many things in the house. The woman I stayed with would tell me not to shower much because she didn’t want her soap to run out. Every time she had guests, she would tell me to leave the house, and she knew I had nowhere else to go. I just took the bus going around the city until I was allowed to come back. Sometimes the visitors would stay for three weeks.”
“I was lucky to escape here with my family, but this made it more difficult, because no one would take us in, since we are five. Every day I would ask God “How am I going to feed my children?” I went to the food bank but they turned me away, because I had no social security card. We nearly starved to death, not in Africa, but here in America. My only option was to work illegally, cleaning houses. This would cause me to lose my asylum case if the government found out, but what choice do I have?”
“I could not find anyone to live with permanently, but people don’t mind a few days, so, I slept on a different couch, every few days. I was always in fear that the next night I would not have a place to stay.”