Government-assisted Syrian refugees arrive in Hamilton Monday

The first group of government-assisted Syrian refugees will arrive in Hamilton on Monday.

Support program to focus on housing, health, education and initial settlement supports

A Syrian man and his child wait in a refugee camp in Greece in October. Some of the families who fled the war will start a new life in Nova Scotia. (Muhammed Muheisen/The Associated Press)

The first group of  government-assisted Syrian refugees will arrive in Hamilton on Monday.

The number of arrivals on Monday is still unclear. Fred Eisenberger has said that Hamilton expects that "a small portion" of the 25,000 refugees coming to Canada.

'The resettlement of refugees is not new to Hamilton.- Wesley executive director, Daljit Garry

The biggest concern at the moment is the city's ability to support the arrival of the refugees.

They'll arrive at Wesley Urban Ministries, the local agency overseeing the support programs offered locally as the refugees transition into life in Canada. The agency says it's been a long road since October. 

"When we started our planning shortly after the election, we all had many restless nights wondering how we would resettle the large number of refugees by year end," read a statement from the agency's executive director, Daljit Garry.

That was a concern of Mayor Fred Eisenberger, as well. In the past, refugees have had to stay in hotels while they settled down in Hamilton because of the city's shortage of affordable housing.

Garry said that Wesley hasn't been working in isolation, but has in fact been in constant contact with organizations across the country sharing ideas and helping each other resolve problems. The Liberals' decision to extend the time frame for arrival has taken some of the pressure off, she said.

City has experience

Wesley Urban Ministry says it has been focused on the most immediate needs of the refugees. Those needs include housing, health, education and initial settlement supports.

She also pointed out that the settling of refugees is not a new experience for the city.

"The resettlement of refugees is not new to Hamilton. We have been receiving refugees for many years so already have a process in place," she said.

"We are utilizing the existing framework to inform how services and supports will be provided to our newest community members," said Garry. "Most fundamental to us is to ensure we are making effective use of resources."