Syrian refugees given keys to permanent Omaha home after months in hotel

A family of Syrian refugees recently found a permanent home in Omaha after months of living in a hotel.
Published: Oct. 31, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Three special needs children in a family of seven made it a challenge to find permanent housing, so the Tabikhs shared two adjoining hotel rooms for nearly five months.

“This is the most difficult case I’ve seen in my time here,” said Matt Martin with Lutheran Family Services.

LFS of Nebraska paid the hotel bills while a housing specialist searched for the family an apartment. That search began in June.

Finally, the parents just got the keys to a three-bedroom unit.

Omaha businessman Gatfan Alsalami, who barely escaped death in Syria years ago, is helping the refugee family from his home country understand their new life in America.

“They’re happy that they have a bigger place now for the whole family,” Alsalami said. “After the end of three months, [the Tabikhs] have to pay out of their own pocket, $1,300 a month.”

But LFS isn’t done yet.

“We’re continuing the work we’ve done to provide case management for the family,” Martin said. “So, we’ll be providing rent and taking care of utilities for the next few months. Furnishing the apartment with anything they might need and working with them so they can be on a path to independence. "

The father, Muhamad Tabikh, is ready to learn English and is hoping to put food on the table.

“He wants to go to work, and he wants to support his family,” Alsalami said. “He can’t sit like this but when he goes to apply for a job, he needs a work permit and social security number.”

In the meantime, Muhamad works with friends to install a mat on the floor so that his three special needs children have soft support when they move around.

“[The mat] is to protect the kids’ knees, because they crawl on their knees, and also to have insulation for the neighbors, so they don’t thump on the floor,” Alsalami said.

Full independence the Tabikhs are just beginning to enjoy.

After 4.5 months in hotel rooms, the family of seven now has a full deck where they can feel the sun and smell the fresh air; simple experiences that are now cherished by a family that is finding freedom in a new country thanks to help from so many in the community who promised them a brighter future.

Lutheran Family Services will accept donations like cash and furniture to help in resettling refugees. Officials say three more families are scheduled to arrive in Omaha on Wednesday.