Kitchener-Waterloo

Syrian refugees won't be left homeless in KW as federal financial support ends

December is the first month that federally-sponsored refugees will be without a federal monthly living allowance. Since that allowance is almost the same amount as what the unemployed can receive through Ontario Works, it's unlikely to be a difficult transition for most families.

Housing more affordable in KW, wasn't subsidised

Syrian refugees arrive at the Pearson Toronto International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, December 18, 2015. December is known as "Month 13" among support agencies and marks the first month that federally-sponsored refugees will be without a living allowance from the federal govenment. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

December is known as "Month 13" for the thousands of people working with Canada's federally-sponsored Syrian refugees. It's the first month those refugees will be surviving without the federal monthly living allowance. 

Once refugees were placed in permanent housing, they were provided income support from the federal government. For an individual, that income support was about $770 a month; a family could receive up to a maximum of $25,000 for the year. 

Those amounts were based on provincial social assistance rates. 

"It is the minimum amount needed to cover only the most basic food and shelter needs," reads an entry in the Government of Canada's immigration FAQs. 

"The difference between what the federal government provides as an allowance and Ontario Works is not that different," said Carl Cadogan, executive director of Reception House, the organization responsible for settling government-sponsored refugees in Waterloo region. 

That means the likelihood that refugees won't be able to make ends meet once the federal support ends is low, Cadogan told The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris on Tuesday. 

"In fact there are some additional benefits that Ontario Works provides that the federal government doesn't provide [while on the federal living allowance]," said Cadogan. One example is the federal Child Tax Benefit, which refugee families can now apply for. 

Housing easier in KW

In fact, said Cadogan, refugees who settled in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are more likely to make a smooth transition because costs of living - especially rent - aren't as expensive as in larger centres. 

"The housing that people got into was really competitive housing. In some of the other cities, especially like Ottawa and Toronto, they kind of subsidized the housing. We didn't do that," said Cadogan.

"So they should be able to stay in that housing indefinitely."

Not cut off

It's not yet clear how many of the more than 800 Syrian refugees who settled in the Region of Waterloo are able to support themselves financially. 

Those numbers are still being processed, said Cadogan.

For those who haven't found work, Reception House has been holding weekly information sessions – with translators – on how Ontario Works is accessed and distributed.

And though the official relationship has ended, support doesn't, said Cadogan. 

"You're not on your own, we're here to support you. But you're leading the charge, and we're pushing you a little bit."

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