Syrian refugees in B.C. still looking for permanent homes

The majority of Syrian government-assisted refugees who have arrived in B.C. are still living in temporary housing or hotels.

So far, ISSofBC has settled only 3 families into permanent homes

Shahi Alradi is looking for a homes for his family, including his one-year-old daughter Zain Alsham. (CBC News)

The majority of Syrian government-assisted refugees who have arrived in B.C. are still living in temporary housing or hotels. 

So far, out of nearly 680 government-assisted refugees, only three families have been settled into permanent homes, said Chris Friesen with Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

Although the ISSofBC has over 1,110 housing leads, he says the challenge is "the families are larger than we anticipated." 

The average size of a refugee family is six, Friesen said, while the majority of the housing offers have been for shared living or basement suites that would not be appropriate for larger families. 

"We've very short of larger, permanent housing accommodations for five to eight family members. That range is really where we need it," he said. 

Lives on hold

Housing is just one of the things for which refugees might have to wait. As B.C. prepares to welcome at least 2,400 Syrian refugees by the end of February, advocates say they could face long waits for essential English language courses that would help them secure employment.

ISSofBC says it wants to permanently settle 20 or more families over the next few days, primarily in the Tri Cities area, and has hired a team of housing search workers specifically to get families settled. 

Although the hotels and temporary housing stays are covered by the government, it's still concerning to refugees such as Hassam Abousalleh. 

He arrived in Canada in late December and is currently staying at the Sandman Hotel in Vancouver. He wants to find a permanent home for his family soon. Until then, things such as enrolling his children in school are on hold, and the family's food costs in downtown are higher than he is comfortable spending on groceries. 

He stayed in a two-room house in Jordan but is hoping to find something more spacious for his family of six. 

Hassam Abousalleh is concerned about finding a permanent home for his family, including his three sons Baraa, 5, Abdallah, 14, and Karam, 13. (Catherine Rolfsen/CBC)

"But we are looking at the prices and rent, and I don't think that will happen. The rents are very expensive," Abousalleh said via a translator. "I'd like to find a house that is sufficient for us and to find a good job and to not rely on anyone else, and most of all, to provide a good education and future for my children."

Refugees will get a housing allowance to cover their first year in B.C., but it's not a large amount. A family of four with two children under age 19, for example, will get $800 a month. 

"All the people here say home is very expensive in Canada," said Shadi Alradi, who is staying at a hotel as well.

He's looking for an affordable home for himself and his Saja Aeash and one-year-old daughter Zain Alsham and will be looking at properties in Surrey and Burnaby on Friday.  

Alradi is thankful to the government but worried the housing allowance isn't enough for an appropriate home for his family. 

"I afraid $600-$700 will be enough or no."

If you have housing available for refugees, you can register your interest at ISSofBC here.

With files from Catherine Rolfsen


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