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More than 100 Syrian refugees have arrived in Hamilton

The weather has been a learning curve, says Daljit Garry. "They're finding it a little bit cold."

New families will arrive nearly every day for the rest of January

More than 100 Syrian refugees have arrived in Hamilton since the first group of 17 arrived on Dec. 21, says Wesley Urban Ministries. Most are families, many with small children. (Kate Bueckert)

More than 100 Syrian refugees have arrived in Hamilton, with more expected nearly every day this month. And so far, their arrivals have been smooth.

As of Wednesday, 104 government-assisted refugees have come to Hamilton, said Daljit Garry, executive director of Wesley Urban Ministries.

That's not including those who have arrived under private sponsorship, which Garry estimates is a much smaller number.

Two or three airplanes arrive in Toronto each day with more Syrian refugees aboard, Garry said. She expects to see "a steady stream" of new Hamiltonians come here this month.

They're finding it a little bit cold.- Daljit Garry, Wesley Urban Ministries

So far, Wesley has had no problems finding housing for the new arrivals, or connecting them with education or healthcare.

"We haven't really encountered any challenges," she said.

That's good news for the agency, which is the first Hamilton point of contact for some of the 25,000 refugees the Trudeau government expects to welcome by March.

Local organizers have rushed to assemble resources without knowing exactly how many will arrive. Garry said they still don't know.

"We will in time know," she said. "Right now, (the government is) trying to send people to where communities are ready to accept them."

In a typical year, she said, Wesley sees about 300 government-assisted refugees. So 104 since Dec. 21 tests its resources.

But it's been fine, she said. The new arrivals are mostly families, and they are all getting used to Canadian winter weather.

"They're finding it a little bit cold," she said. "They don't want to go out. The temperature change is a bit of a shock."

Wesley is planning future movie nights for the families – the first time many of them will experience Canadian culture.

While Wesley has had no issues finding housing for the families, Garry said, it still needs to hear from landlords with space to rent.

Housing has been a struggle for a group from St. James Anglican Church in Dundas, which is sponsoring a family of 14. Cheri Weaver, the volunteer in charge of finding housing, said she hasn't found a place yet, but she's making progress.

She expects her group will have, at most, 48 hours notice before the family arrives. But it's been an exciting process.

"We have a lot of donations to the point where we probably have too many things, and we're sorting out how to move them on to other families," she said. "Everybody is really keen."  

Wesley is also hosting an information session for groups privately sponsoring Syrian refugees at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. RSVP to tiffany.jar@wesley.ca.

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