November 27, 2015 - 2:30 PM
PENTICTON - Naramata Centre could find new life as a temporary home for several Syrian refugee families.
The centre’s board of directors have been looking for uses for the centre since it shut down in January and one suggestion coming out of community involved discussions in the last few months was the facility be used to house Syrian refugees.
Naramata Community Refugee Support Committee member Laura Gray says approval has recently been given by the Naramata Centre board to provide four housing units, consisting of two bedrooms each, to accommodate up to four, four-member refugee families.
While not a sure thing, Gray says her committee wants to have everything in place should the centre be selected as a location in which to house some of the 25,000 refugees expected in Canada by early 2016.
“We are working with other service providers in Penticton, including groups that have already done this. There is one Syrian family that has been settled in Summerland,” she says.
Gray says refugees coming to Naramata would be located under government sponsorship through South Okanagan Similkameen Immigrant and Community Services. Under federal sponsorship, refugees can be funded for up to one year, but the goal is to assist refugees to become independent as soon as possible, she says.
“We want to help the process be as smooth as possible for families who have been under great stress, so that they’re not missing anything from everyday living needs,” Gray says.
Immigrant Services program manager Tahira Saeed says her organization assists newcomers with settlement planning, English classes, employment searches, and training in programs such as WHIMIS, First Aid and Food Safe.
"We also provide assistance with provincial or federal government related paperwork," Saeed says. “Help is also provided to integrate the refugees into the community by introducing them to municipal services, volunteer organizations... (and) school registration."
Gray says they want the public to be involved.
A public meeting is tentatively set on Tuesday, Dec. 8 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Naramata school gymnasium.
“If people have any concerns at all, this is an opportunity for residents to express their concerns and ask questions," she says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015