Kamloops businesses, landlords urged to help sponsor refugees

By Chad Klassen
January 28, 2016 - 12:59pm Updated: January 29, 2016 - 11:16am

KAMLOOPS—  Syrian refugees coming into Canada, about 14,000 since November, have been welcomed with open arms across the country. 

WATCH: Full story by Reporter Chad Klassen

But soon into starting their new lives, many families aren't settled, still living in temporary housing or staying in hotels.

"I think it's the channeling, the transitioning that's a problem," says Executive Director of Kamloops Immigrant Services Paul Lagace. "Once they arrive in the major centres, there needs to be a channeling process from those major centres to the smaller rural communities, where they can be accommodated."

Vancouver and Ottawa have, in fact, stopped accepting more government-sponsored refugees for now with no housing available.

A similar concern is brewing in Kamloops, where one family has arrived, living in Brock. There are four more privately-sponsor families expected here anytime, as well as five additional government-sponsored ones. 

It's a problem Paul Lagace from Kamloops Immigrant Services and Bob Hughes from ASK Wellness have been working to solve. 

Families can expect to pay up to $1,500 for monthly rent in Kamloops, a steep price to pay for newcomers.

"We have this huge demand for housing and such limited supply that is affordable," says Bob Hughes from ASK Wellness. "I think it's going to take a really creative approach to bridge the gap between what the amount of shelter money being provided to these Syrian refugees and with what the markets rents are out there."

That is why Kamloops Immigrant Services, ASK Wellness, and Friends and Refugees Together are reaching out to businesses and landlords for help. They're requesting businesses sponsor a family with $200 a month for one year. 

Government-sponsored families receive assistance the first year, up to $1,500 a month for a family with five children. 

Privately-sponsored families are relying on donations to RAFT. Lagace says financial help in the first year is critical. 

"Once they're settled, and they start to find work, then you're looking at people who will be putting back into the community," says Lagace. "We have found and research shows very clearly that refugees settle quickly and they establish quickly, and they progress economically quickly."

The bid to find housing for nine more Syrian families won't be easy, but the group says it can be done. 

"I'm pretty confident in our team," says Hughes. "This is the right thing to do. This isn't going to be easy, but these are people who are fleeing war, they're fleeing violence, they are people starving there. These aren't people just looking for a soft landing. These are people who are desperate for a place to start rebuilding their lives."

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