Refugees in Nanaimo have been given a financial boost, thanks to a local charitable foundation.
The Nanaimo Foundation recently announced that it will contribute $15,000 to the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island branch to help government-assisted refugees find permanent housing in Nanaimo.
“It’s a real identified need for these refugees,” said Laurie Bienert, development officer with the Nanaimo Foundation. “Many of them arrive and are placed in temporary living situations, but of course we hope they stay and enjoy our community for a long time.”
Bienert said the United Way’s Nanaimo chapter will be in charge of distributing the money and facilitating the refugee’s transition to a permanent housing situation, adding that United Way will be working with the City of Nanaimo and the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society.
The $15,000 initially came from the Community Foundations of Canada’s Welcome Fund for Syrian Refugees, which was established in 2015 as a way to help refugees settle in all parts of Canada.
Bienert said the $15,000 will go directly into a rent subsidy program that will provide ongoing support for the refugees.
“The welcome money will be administered through that rent subsidy program on an ongoing basis to support these new families,” she said.
Hilde Schlosar, executive director for the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, said the money will provide a boost to government-assisted refugees, adding that many are dealing with a range of other issues, such as post-traumatic stress.
“This will alleviate some of the pressure and stress on new refugees in becoming established in the first year they are here,” Schlosar said. “It does help because they have a lot of other pressures on them right now.”
Schlosar said her organization expects more government-assisted refugees will be coming to Nanaimo, but doesn’t know when or how many, adding that the centre is willing to take on more refugees only if more funding is secured.
“We haven’t been informed yet. We have been very open to it in saying that this is a good location, but [the government] needs to adequately fund our services once the refugees get here because if we don’t have enough money for the language classes and settlement supports that they are going to need for a couple of years to help them integrate and adjust, then don’t send them here,” she said.
More than 10 government-assisted refugee families have settled in Nanaimo, according to Schlosar, who said that as housing and rental prices continue to rise throughout the Lower Mainland and Victoria, some government-assisted refugees are moving to more affordable communities.
“There are more government-assisted families [in Nanaimo] than the eight families that first arrived,” she said. “One relocated from Hamilton, Ont., because they had friends here and so they wanted that connection and several others have since moved up from Victoria.”