London

Dwindling host homes in London, Ont. leave Ukrainian refugees fending for themselves

A London-based Facebook group that's been instrumental in helping refugees from Ukraine find host homes in the region will no longer be linking people up because of a host shortage.

One Facebook group has linked about 100 refugee families with hosts in the region

Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russia's invasion of Ukraine wait after arriving on a train from Odesa at Przemysl Glowny train station, Poland, April 9, 2022. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

A London-based Facebook group that's been instrumental in helping refugees from Ukraine find host homes in the region will no longer be linking people up because of a host shortage. 

Ten volunteers have been working to connect people through the group, Ukraine Help Middlesex (London, ON Canada), voted to instead focus on supporting Ukrainians they've already committed to helping. 

"In fact, we have more people contacting us daily to request hosting than we have hosts, which is kind of discouraging," said Richard Hone, the co-founder of the group. "As a matter of fact, it's very discouraging."

Richard Hone says that the number of host families for Ukrainian refugees is dwindling. (Submitted by Richard Hone)

"I would have thought at least we could have got 10 per cent of the population willing to host 200 families," Hone added. "And we're not there yet, and I don't think we're going to get there."

The Facebook group launched in March, weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, and now has 3,170 members. According to Hone, they've linked up about 100 families who have been displaced by the war. 

According to the recent census data, 10,000 of the 1.3 million Ukrainians in Canada are in London.

"Our biggest concern now is what to do with the people who are on the ground," said Hone. "So, let's say there are 100 families here. Canadians can't find housing as it is, affordable rentals, etc., so now we're worried that we're going to have people slip through the cracks that are here." 

"We're kind of transitioning our thinking from, 'Okay, we've hosted who we can to this point. Now we have to concentrate on moving them into the next phase because as their hosting begins to wear out … they have to start moving into their own places. Where are those places?" 

According to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Ukrainian adults who come to Canada as part of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program are eligible for $3,000 each, and $1,500 for children and youth under the age of 18 to help with basic needs like housing and transportation. 

They can also take advantage of the federal Settlement Program, which includes language courses and employment services. These are available to temporary residents from Ukraine too. 

'A huge leap' 

"It's a huge leap to jump into something that is totally unknown," said Bonnie Forron about the shortage of hosts. She's a host herself and a moderator for Hone's Facebook group.

Bonnie Forron (left) and her husband are hosting two Ukrainian refugees in the region. (Submitted by Bonnie Forron)

"There isn't any financial support for us through the government so it all depends on what people are willing to support." 

Forron has taken in a mother and her son since May 12. She originally committed to hosting the family for three months but extended it to three years, if need be, since it's been going so well. 

"It's heartbreaking that there [aren't] enough hosts," added Forron. "But I do know that there's so many people wanting to come as well." 

She mentioned that they'll still be linking hosts to refugees, but for the family of Ukrainians they've already helped out. 

"We'll continue to do that because that creates a sense of community for those people," Hone said. "And they have a support system amongst each other when their both families are here."

They'll also link up friends of Ukrainians in the region they've worked with.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Chaarani is a reporter for CBC London. You can reach him at james.chaarani@cbc.ca.

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