February 22, 2016 - 8:00 PM
VERNON - With as many as 50 Syrian refugees expected to arrive in Vernon, immigrant services is still struggling to find housing for them all.
Vernon Immigrant Services executive director Carol Wutzke says five government sponsored families are due to arrive within the next ten days.
“We don’t know how many individuals exactly, but we are told they are bigger families,” Wutzke says. “It could be 50, 40 or 30 people.”
Immigrant services has helped settled many refugees over the years, but a big challenge this time, particularly with accommodation, is not knowing exactly how many people are arriving.
“We don’t have any housing secured, other than people who have called and generously said they have a house or a duplex that could be available,” Wutzke says.
The North Okanagan Refugee Committee issued an appeal for housing leads last week, but Wutzke says they are still looking for both short and long-term housing.
“I’ve gone around and talked to motels, but it’s hard to book when you don’t know how many people are coming,” Wutzke says.
Immigrant services will try to house the refugee families in proximity to each other so they can support each other in the transition.
Government assisted refugees have a start-up allowance for basic necessities, but it’s not much, Wutzke says.
“If the community steps up to donate that will allow them to get a much better start,” Wutzke says.
Immigrant services is welcoming donations of clothing and furniture, but is asking that people hold on to the donations until the refugees have arrived. More information will be released in the coming weeks regarding donations and other ways to help, Wutzke says.
Interior Health and the Vernon School District, as well as the community at large, have been involved in preparing for the newcomers.
“People have been very open to helping,” Wutzke says.
Roughly nine church and community groups are in various stages of privately sponsoring Syrian refugee families to Vernon, but none have arrived yet.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016