A Calgary organization helping Ukrainian refugees settle in the Alberta city is preparing for an influx of newcomers expected to arrive over the next several months.
According to the Centre for Newcomers, over the past couple of weeks more than 1,100 refugees have settled in Alberta — nearly half of those coming to Calgary.
Centre for Newcomers chief program officer, Kelly Ernst, said the issue the centre now has right now is finding them a temporary place to live.
“We’re in a desperate, dire need at the moment for host homes to try to accommodate the evacuees coming from the Ukraine,” Ernst said.
Over the past few weeks, Ernst said the city has seen an average of about 450 refugees coming to Calgary from Ukraine.
According to Ernst, many newcomers are coming to Calgary due to the low rental prices compared to larger cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
However, due to the lack of housing, he says many of those individuals and families have been sleeping at the airport, or living at hotels and local shelters.
“We have pulled people out of the airport who have stayed there two or three nights because they could not find housing, we have pulled people off the streets to try and ensure that they are not homeless, and we have pulled people out of shelters who should not be there,” Ernst said.
“It’s reaching the proportions of being a crisis moment.”
As of mid-March, more than 26,500 Ukrainians have arrived in Alberta since the beginning of the Russian invasion over a year ago.
Last week, the federal government said it will extend the emergency visa application period for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war to July 15.
At the same time, the Alberta government announced it will be providing an additional $2.1 million in supports for Ukrainians fleeing their worn-torn country and seeking refuge in Alberta.
With hundreds more refugees still expected over the next several months, they’re hoping Calgarians will open their doors to these refugees until they can get back on to their feet.
“They need one month of stay,” says Centre for Newcomers housing manager Natalia Shen. “It’s an average time when families can find their long-term rent, job, and settle down here in Calgary.”
According to the centre, there have been nearly 170 Calgary families that have welcomed families into their homes — some even assisting several families.
One of those families was Dmytro Syrman, his wife and four-year-old daughter, who arrived in Calgary on March 19 — leaving everything they knew back in their home of Dniprorudne following the Russian invasion last year.
“We lose everything,” Syrman said.
“We lost jobs, and we live in occupied city for six months.”
Syrman and his wife signed up for centre’s housing program and were matched with the Vosburgh family, where they’ve lived now for just over a week.
Jeff Vosburgh said welcoming refugees into their home was the family’s plans all along since the war began.
“It was just out of the desire to help and also the desire to give people a chance to build a strong life in Canada,” Vosburgh said.
Their 12-year-old son Jenson called their family’s move to open their doors a “very good decision.”
“Just the fact that we’re helping, it changes their life and I pretty much get a little sister now, it’s really fun,” he said.
Currently there are more than 270 families on the waitlist for temporary housing — the centre says that number grows every day.
Families that are interested in helping refugees can do so by signing up at refugeeshousedhere.ca.
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