J-1 Students find shelter in York as well

from the Portsmouth Herald. Since Kittery J-1 is trying to do the same thing this story should be shared as well.

bildeCA7X05K2Longer-term housing can be difficult to find on Seacoast

June 15, 2014 2:00 AM

YORK, Maine — Two female foreign workers who arrived homeless in York Beach last week have found housing, at least temporarily.

Kukalay “Kuka” Zhumabayeva, 20, and Moldir “Moka” Yussupova, 19, college roommates from Kazakhstan, arrived June 13 with a job, but no housing, they said Thursday.

Through help from Pat Conner, who heads the York Seasonal Worker Program, Kuka and Moka found a place to stay, at first with her, and as of Thursday, with Guillermo and Alice Larrea of York Harbor. Last year, the Larreas housed a Serbian student who needed a place to live after learning her arranged lodging was sold.

Kuka and Moka will stay with the Larreas until they can move into a local motel that has yet to open for the season, Conner said. Most likely, the students will also work at the motel as a second job to busing tables at GiGi’s restaurant in York Beach.

Most of the 40 to 50 seasonal employees arriving in York Beach on a J1 student visa work two or three jobs to pay for housing and expenses and to save money to travel in the U.S. when the summer ends. They may also be paying off the $2,000 to $3,000 most agencies charge to help them come to the States for work, according to Conner, who believes the students opted to find their own housing to save on that expense.

“They came in a self-placement status,” Conner said, “that’s a status people can choose. Mostly we see that from people who have been here before.”

Kuka said they were supposed to find housing before leaving Kazakhstan.

“They said, you must find housing for yourself,” Kuka said of their agency, International Exchange. “You must find before you go to America.”

The pair and a male student left Kazakhstan without booking a place to live.

Originally, Conner said she thought the agency had arranged housing that turned out to be nonexistent. The male student, who is also working at GiGi’s, has found a place to live, according to Conner.

Moka and Kuka indicated they didn’t think it would be as hard as it has been to find an affordable room or apartment. They thought, Moka said, “Once we were here we’d find first a hotel, and go to the job, and after two or three days, find a house.”

Conner said before the students left home they looked online and found apartments in York advertised for $650 a month. Once they got here, they found those rents really didn’t exist, she said.

“In York, a house is very expensive for us,” Kuka said.

International Exchange has been helpful and has kept track of the students, Conner said. An agency representative has said if no housing can be found in York, the students can be transferred to a job and apartment in Portland, where International Exchange places other students.

Moka said, “We want to stay here.”

“It’s a very nice place,” Kuka said.

“It’s our first ocean,” Moka said.

Kazakhstan has the Caspian Sea, lakes and a river, but no ocean, they said.

Through the kindness of strangers, they may be able to stay. “Yes, very kind people,” Kuka said.

Conner has taken the students grocery shopping and provided them with bicycles for their commute to work, as the York Seasonal Worker Program does for all foreign workers.

As happy as she has been to help, the program was not set up, nor does it want to take on, the responsibility of finding housing for workers, she said.

“I think that people need to be more aware of the area they’re coming to and how difficult housing is,” she said. “Agencies should provide housing and the job. That would be the safest thing.”

Picture from Portsmouth Herald:

bildeCA7X05K2Moka Yussupova and Kuka Zhumabayeva of Kazakhstan sit with Guillermo and Alice Larrea of York Harbor, Maine, who are providing the seasonal workers with a temporary place to stay.

Susan Morse photo