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Ukrainian refugee services strained in B.C., stakeholders say

Click to play video: 'Resources in B.C. for Ukrainian refugees being stretched' Resources in B.C. for Ukrainian refugees being stretched
Church and volunteer groups helping Ukrainian refugees say it's increasingly difficult to find places for them to live as more people arrive in Canada after fleeing the war in their homeland. Aaron McArthur reports – Jun 3, 2022

Friday marks 100 days since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and for some of the refugees that have come to B.C. the arrival has been rocky.

Despite promises made by the federal and provincial government to help them get settled, accessing resources and finding a place to live has proven to be challenging, according to stakeholders.

Read more: The first 100 days of war through the eyes of a Ukrainian village

At the Holy Eucharist Cathedral in New Westminster, the services are needed nonstop.

In order to meet basic needs, Pastor Mykhailo Ozorovych said for the first time in the parish’s history, they’ve had to hire people to help manage the crisis.

“Our capacity is already at the max. We are trying to expand so we can help a little bit more,” Ozorovych said.

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There are two volunteer teams working on resettlement and one has stopped taking registrations, according to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The other may be full by the end of June.

Read more: ‘Glory to Ukraine,’ Zelenskyy says in 100th speech in 100 days of Russia’s war

Volunteers in B.C. have managed to settle about 500 families on an emergency basis but more people are coming.

“We are seeing a huge volume and it’s just beyond our capacity,” said Iryna Shyroka, Ukrainian Canadian Congress spokesperson.

“We are just volunteers. We have no settlement experience or qualifications. We just do what we can.”

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In the first five months of 2022, more than 33,000 people arrived from Ukraine.

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Officials expect that number to grow rapidly in the coming weeks.

Of the more than 278,000 people who have applied for temporary emergency resident visas, more than 127,000 have been approved.

The B.C government is looking to find more permanent living arrangements in the middle of a housing crisis.

“We are looking at other opportunities,” said Nathan Cullen, B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs.

“(We are looking at) renting hotels and other options for the long term because the visas allow people to stay for three years.”

Read more: Ukraine crisis creates new trafficking, exploitation risks for women and children

The federal government has announced financial help for refugees. Each adult refugee is entitled to $3,000.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress said at minimum the government needs to be prepared to support refugees for up to a year.

“A one-time $3,000 payment per adult is good enough for monthly rent, I would say,” Iryna Shyroka said.

One hundred days into the invasion with no end in sight, volunteers said the refugee crisis will only get worse.

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