With communities across Metro Vancouver facing a housing crunch, in Coquitlam, B.C., — where many large refugee families are being resettled — volunteers are renovating derelict apartment units that would otherwise sit empty.
A group called Tri-Cities Friends of Refugees has already repaired four units for families that were having a hard time finding affordable rental apartments.
"It's a really rough situation for many of these larger families trying to find a housing unit that would be able to accommodate a family of seven," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.
"We're having volunteers step up. Suppliers, community groups — they're coming out of the woodwork to help."
According to one of the group's posts on Facebook, two of the homes were empty townhouse units operated by a non-profit society that couldn't afford to fix the extensive damage.
"It really was a community effort to try to figure out how we try to repair these buildings and make them new again," said Stewart.
"They really are in many ways a new unit that doesn't have a long life ahead of it but it certainly fills a need that is incredibly urgent."
The homes are now occupied by two families — each of them widows with children who arrived in B.C. less than one year ago.
"The happy smiles, the tears of joy, helping them unpack and get settled into their new homes that only a few months ago we didn't know existed was so incredibly heartwarming, it's difficult to express," Teri Towner wrote on Facebook.
Stewart said the group plans to repair more units over the next few months.