Manitoba

Housing the No. 1 need for unprecedented number of Syrian refugees in Manitoba

Finding a place to live is the number 1 issue when it comes to addressing the basic needs of Syrian refugees arriving in Manitoba, Hani Al-Ubeady says.

'We're not able to give people that much choice' of housing, Welcome Place staff say

Duaa Al Meslamani, 7, takes her first steps in her new home in Winnipeg. Welcome Place moves, on average, about six Syrian refugee families out of temporary housing and into permanent homes every day. (Margaux Watt/CBC)

Finding a place to live is the number 1 issue when it comes to addressing the basic needs of Syrian refugees arriving in Manitoba, says Hani Al-Ubeady of Welcome Place.

​More than 900 refugees have come to Manitoba since November 2015. Most are government-assisted refugees and many spend their first days living in temporary housing at Welcome Place.  

Al-Ubeady, manager of permanent refugee settlement at the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (also known as Welcome Place), said about 70 per cent of the arrivals have been placed in permanent housing to date.

"That is very impressive to me," he said.

He gives credit to what he describes as a collaborative approach involving government, the community and landlords in the private sector.

150 arrive every 2 weeks

Manitoba is taking in about 150 Syrian refugees every two weeks.

Many of the families are large, some with as many as 13 members.

Keeping up with that pace is a challenge.

"We were able to accommodate people to be able to stay in the temporary locations, but also have been moving people out, on average, about six families a day," said Rita Chahal, executive director of Welcome Place.

"So that's allowing us to keep the flow going."

Having to move people out of temporary housing into permanent homes so quickly has its disadvantages, Chahal said.

"Normally we would have a little bit more time, when people would have the opportunity to make some choices in the type of accommodations that they would be moving into," she said.

"That's now limited. We're not able to give people that much choice. We're not able to do as many showings as we might have done in the past, simply because we have to keep the flow going."

But on a positive note, it allows families to get settled as quickly as possible, she said.

It's expected 2,000 Syrian refugees will call Manitoba home by the end of 2016.

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