Today we went and visited a Sudanese family to bring the 3 year old some new church dresses (Why she needed new church dresses is a funny/sad story I will tell on Monday). When we got there the conversation started off normal and light. Because Ibraham's English is broken (at best) and Susanna is deaf and mute, they decided to show us the books they have to learn English from. The books they brought out were Baby's First Words books (I had the same ones for my kids when they were little). They started flipping through the pages, practicing pronunciation, when Susanna came across a page of animals and saw a squirrel. Not being able to speak, she pointed to the squirrel and motioned that they had lots of them in their apartment. Knowing that she really meant she had rats and not squirrels, I showed her a picture of rats on my phone and she nodded and pointed to the places where they lived.
We were immediately alarmed by this (even though we know of other tenants of that building having the same problem) and followed her inside to see if they were doing anything to attract the rats and see how we can help. What we found is horrifying.
There were holes in the walls in various areas around their apartments that housed rats. They told us that there are lots of little baby rats that run around at night. Susanna motioned that they crawl on them at night while they sleep and Ibrahim said there is a lot in the bedroom.
Besides the fact that they had to deal with the health hazard of rats in their apartment, we also found that they had almost no food in their apartment and that the apartment was in very poor condition. Upon seeing all of this and knowing what a sweet family this is, I began to tear up a little. I see these terrible living conditions and a 3 year old sleeping on half a couch in the middle of it all. All I want to do is help these people, and sadly I know that there are 100's of other families just like that.
Would you pay $750-$920/month to live in this rat infested, filthy, broken down apartment? Unfortunately new refugee families in Las Vegas often have to. When a refugee family is resettled in the U.S., it is up to the resettlement agencies to find them a place to live. So the resettlement agencies have to find apartment complexes that are willing to take tenants that have no credit history and pay on a month to month basis. The complex that houses this family is one of them and charges $750/month (after 8 months that rent increases).
With the proper funding and support from the community, we can make changes to dramatically improve the lives of these refugees and other low income families. But until that happens, we're going to be seeing a lot of problems like this. That being said, tomorrow we will visit this family with food and rat traps, speak to the apartment management (again), and continue to work hard to help families like this.