Syrian-migrant families need two- and three-bedroom apartments, agencies struggle to find them

Agencies scour Ottawa for low-cost housing for Syrian refugees

Families from Syria arrive at the Ottawa airport in late December.
Families from Syria arrive at the Ottawa airport in late December. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

The number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees who land in Ottawa is expected to more than double during the next month to 1,100 as local settlement agencies race to find housing for the newcomers.

In the coming week, about 35 Syrian refugees a day are expected to arrive in the city, said Carl Nicholson, executive director of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, the agency responsible for the initial care of the Ottawa arrivals.

“It’s a very dynamic, fluid situation,” Nicholson told reporters Thursday after a meeting at city hall designed to improve co-ordination between the city’s settlement agencies.

A apartment building at 1240 Donald Street in Ottawa will soon be home to a large number of Syrian refugees

An apartment building at 1240 Donald St. will soon be home to a large number of Syrian refugees.DARREN BROWN / OTTAWA CITIZEN

The Syrian refugees are now being temporarily housed at the Maison Sophia Reception House and at three local hotels, where they’re equipped with health cards, social insurance numbers and banking information.

The big challenge now, Nicholson said, is to find enough two- and three-bedroom apartments for the large Syrian families that have arrived.

Out of the 90 families that have already landed, he said, accommodation has been found for 55 of them. Most of the families have four or five members; about 60 per cent of the new arrivals are children.

“Clearly, they want to live in places where there are concentrations of people like them, but we can’t always do that,” said Nicholson. “So sometimes, it takes persuading. They want to live together: It’s normal. It’s comfort, it’s security in a strange place.”

Syrian migrants dislike living in a hotel, feel like in a “prison” and would rather go back to their refugee camps

Syrians feel ‘hopeless’ as government-sponsored refugees in Toronto, mother says

Volunteers worry about 2-tier system as some newcomers face isolation in Canada

CBC News Posted: Jan 25, 2016 8:43 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 26, 2016 6:42 AM ET

Some Syrian refugees sponsored by the government say they're not getting much help in Canada from Immigration Minister John McCallum, right, and would rather go back to their refugee camps overseas, such as this one in Lebanon.

Some Syrian refugees sponsored by the government say they’re not getting much help in Canada from Immigration Minister John McCallum, right, and would rather go back to their refugee camps overseas, such as this one in Lebanon. (Bilal Hussein/Associated Press)

Some government-sponsored Syrian refugees staying at a budget hotel in Toronto say they feel like they’re “trapped in a prison” without hope due to a lack of communication, supplies and assistance. 

Virginia Johnson, one of two volunteers working at the hotel, joined CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Monday to speak to host Matt Galloway.

Johnson said the refugees have been at the hotel for weeks and have no idea when they will be able to leave. Some of the 85 government-sponsored refugees say they’re not getting much help, and would rather go back to their refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. 

“The settlement agencies are overwhelmed,” said Johnson. “There’s a huge opportunity for individuals to step up and help.”

‘I don’t expect them to feel gratitude immediately when they’ve come here — they’re really so isolated.’– Virginia Johnson, volunteer

(…)

“We were told that when we arrived to the hotel that we would only be staying for three to four days maximum. However, things have been changed and we’ve been here for 10 to 11 days, and we’ve been told it could be even longer. The problem is that we have kids and we would rather be outside in a settled house than sitting at a hotel,” Abu-Rukti said.

“We feel like our kids are just stuck here. We go into one room, we eat, and then we return to other room and just go to bed. Our kids don’t have anywhere to play, nowhere to go out. We feel like we’re just trapped in a prison.”

Surrey schools struggle to place Syrian migrants

 

By Eric MacKenzie

Syrian refugee students raise their hands as they attend class in a UNICEF school at the Al Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, March 11, 2015

Syrian refugee students raise their hands as they attend class in a UNICEF school at the Al Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, March 11, 2015 Photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuter

With some Surrey schools already facing overcrowding, the district is looking for ways to best accommodate the coming arrival of hundreds of Syrian refugee students.

And with little control over where government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee families may settle, that could mean transporting students to out-of-catchment schools once they’re ready to enter the classroom.

“We’ll be looking at all ways that we can to make it work,” said Doug Strachan, communication services manager for the Surrey School District.

“But that’s certainly one of the options if we have to.”

Fewer than 10 refugee students have begun attending schools in the Surrey district, but more than 300 are expected to arrive before the end of the school year. With some institutions already at capacity, making space for the incoming students will be a challenge, but not impossible, said Strachan.

“The over-capacity schools that we have right now are in three primary areas in the district, so there are schools with some vacancies outside those main three neighbourhoods,” he said. “We’re hopeful that we can work with the community partners and have a bias to the location of families if possible so that it’s straightforward for them to attend the schools where we have space.

“Obviously, there are a lot of variables there, including where they can get accommodation,” Strachan continued. “But we’ll work it out.”

The Surrey district is also one of several in Metro Vancouver impacted by the incoming refugees who have been working with the ministries of education and immigration to ensure funding will be in place for the new students.

There is a student head count upcoming in mid-February that will be submitted to the province to establish funding needs for the remainder of the year, but most incoming students will not arrive in time to be included. Although the province has committed to funding education for all refugee students – previously stating that allotments for students arriving after February would start going to school districts in April – but some questions remain about how that process will work.

“We’re confident that the (Ministry of Education) and government will be funding those refugee students, but it just means that there will have to be a different process,” said Strachan, noting that the total cost of accommodating 300-plus students would exceed $200,000.

“It’s a question mark that we have that may create some delays.”

Alberta government provides money to aid refugee settlement centres

Alberta government provides money to aid refugee settlement centres

Adults (L-R) Ghada Al-Adhami, Mohammad Aljammal and his wife Heba Alhaffar with (L-R) Ghasan Al-Jamal, 3, Shaam Al-Jamal, 2, and Naheed Aljammal, 3, are Syrian refugees living in Edmonton.
Adults (L-R) Ghada Al-Adhami, Mohammad Aljammal and his wife Heba Alhaffar with (L-R) Ghasan Al-Jamal, 3, Shaam Al-Jamal, 2, and Naheed Aljammal, 3, are Syrian refugees living in Edmonton. JOHN LUCAS / EDMONTON JOURNAL

A $100,000 injection by the Alberta government is helping five provincial refugee settlement offices share their expertise with faith-based and other community groups who want to bring Syrian refugees to safety.

The centres in Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge already help government-sponsored refugees get their social insurance numbers, register children in school and access English language classes. But they say they’re receiving hundreds of calls each week from people wondering how they can help.

Alice Colak, vice-president of immigration and settlement services for Edmonton-based Catholic Social Services, is putting together a proposal to the government to get a portion of that $100,000 to host public forums in October to guide interested people through the private refugee sponsorship process. In the past year, Colak said the settlement centre in Edmonton has helped 60 government-sponsored Syrian refugees — out of a total of 400 refugees from around the world — by greeting them at the airport, helping them find housing, connect with school or find work. In Red Deer, the centre has helped 24 government-sponsored Syrian refugees.

(…)

“The $100,000 is to do some community engagement with Albertans, basically respond to the great interest people have shown,” Colak said. The government grants will head out the door later this week or early next. Premier Rachel Notley also committed the government to give $75,000 to the Red Cross campaign and the government has already matched $75,000 in personal donations to the organization.

Canadian taxpayers to pay each Syrian family of four $800 a month for housing

Syrian refugees about to face housing crunch in Calgary

Most Syrian refugees are being housed at a Calgary hotel because they can’t find housing

By Judy Aldous, CBC News Posted: Jan 19, 2016 6:51 PM MT Last Updated: Jan 20, 2016 2:39 PM MT

A resident walks in a hallway at the Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre in Calgary.

A resident walks in a hallway at the Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Calgary at a Crossroads

The man leading the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Calgary is telling the federal government to stop sending families of more than six people because it’s getting difficult to find housing.

It comes as Ottawa and Vancouver announced they will temporarily halt the flow of government-sponsored refugees because of a lack of housing.

EDMONTON: Syrian migrants hit by the flu, clog clinics in ER

Syrian refugees hit by 1st flu season in Canada

Health officials estimates half the adult Syrian refugees, most of the children have caught colds or the flu

CBC News Posted: Jan 22, 2016 9:53 AM MT Last Updated: Jan 23, 2016 12:40 PM MT

Many Syrian refugees in Edmonton are experiencing their first flu season in Canada, putting pressure on family clinics and hospital emergency departments.

Many Syrian refugees in Edmonton are experiencing their first flu season in Canada, putting pressure on family clinics and hospital emergency departments. (CBC)

Many Syrian refugees who came to Edmonton as part of Canada’s resettlement plans have been hit hard by the flu during their first winter in their new home country.

Catholic Social Services estimates of half of the adults and most of their children have come down with a cold or the flu.

Michael Di Massa

Catholic Social Services spokesman Michael Di Massa said Syrian refugees are vulnerable to the flu and colds. (CBC)

“They’re just not used to the climate here, so they catch the cold, they catch the flu. They’re not used to the strains of [the] virus,” said agency spokesman Michael Di Massa.

“They’re in a short-term residence, which is probably not helping the situation,” he said. “It’s like kids in school — if you have one kid in the classroom get sick, the other kids might get sick.”

Edmonton’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Christopher Sikora, said the province provides regular checkups and flu shots for all refugees, but with so many arriving in a short time, it’s hard to keep up.

“We have a group of individuals arriving in Canada who have underlying chronic disease, who come from an environment where things weren’t very good, and travelling through influenza (and) gastrointestinal virus season,” he said.