Refugee families affected by housing crunch

Housing has been found for just four of 22 government-assisted refugee families that arrived in town last month.

Refugee families affected by housing crunch

Officials are finding it difficult to obtain housing for 22 large Syrian refugee families that first came to Abbotsford nearly a month ago.

Only one of the families has so far been moved into a home, with three others slated to move at the end of the month, according to Donna Lo, the manager of settlement services at Abbotsford Community Services. The others remain living in a local hotel.

ACS had not been informed about the composition or sizes of families prior to their arrival last month, and Lo said the size of the families – many couples have five or more children – has posed difficulties.

“It’s more challenging than we thought.”

Abbotsford has a general shortage of rental housing, with a report last year putting the vacancy rate at a record low of 0.6 per cent. Other areas in the Lower Mainland are experiencing a similar housing squeeze, and Lo said Abbotsford has welcomed several other refugee families from cities further west in recent weeks.

But housing the families already here hasn’t been easy, and has been complicated by getting the proper paperwork and funding to allow for deposits to be made. Workers had originally hoped to find homes close to schools and other refugee families. Lo said the challenges are such that the priority is now just finding sufficient space for the families.

“It’s a process and it takes time,” Lo said.

Later this month, more than 90 of the children will attend their first classes in the Abbotsford school district. In the meantime, they’re slowly exploring Abbotsford and getting used to life in their new hometown. On Tuesday, several dozen were at the MSA Arena to cheer on the Abbotsford Hawks at the peewee A-1 provincial championships.

Teresa Plevy, a grandparent of a player, wrote the News: “By the time the boys came out of the dressing room to start the third period, you would have thought they were playing in the NHL for the size of the ‘mob’ cheering their arrival back on the ice. It was definitely a feel-good experience for both the kids and our new citizens.”

Anyone wanting to help can call Palwinder at 778-809-4411.