A Syrian man carries a sleeping child off a bus at the Travelodge in Nanaimo last Thursday. The group of 38 refugees

A Syrian man carries a sleeping child off a bus at the Travelodge in Nanaimo last Thursday. The group of 38 refugees

Big families make Syrian refugees a challenge to house

Many refugees still in Metro Vancouver hotels, Surrey top destination for permanent homes

Surrey is the top destination where government-assisted Syrian refugees are finding permanent homes in B.C.

Nearly 300 or close to half of the just over 600 government-assisted Syrians that have found permanent accommodation are in Surrey, said Chris Friesen, settlement services director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

Coquitlam accounted for about 20 per cent of permanent refugee homes, followed by Burnaby, Vancouver and Delta.

But more than 900 government-assisted Syrians were still in hotels waiting to move into permanent homes, including more than 160 in Abbotsford, as of Feb. 29.

Friesen said some of them have begun to be transferred to cities outside the Lower Mainland, including Victoria and Nanaimo, with more destined for centres like Prince George, Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops starting this week.

The hope is permanent housing will be easier to find in those centres than the high-priced Metro Vancouver area.

“As we predicted, we’re dealing with larger size families – larger even than we thought,” Friesen said, adding that means large suites or homes are needed.

“The ongoing challenge for us remains permanent housing,” he said, adding language training and jobs are the next top priorities.

The government assistance in place for one year provides a family of six with a maximum of $885 a month for accommodation – much less than the typical rent for a large home.

Families of three or more also get $649 a month for food and clothing under the federal Resettlement Assistance Program and a one-time start-up allowance of $1,709. The food and clothing allowance is fixed whether it’s a family of three or 10.

“The Syrian men are very anxious to get into employment but they don’t speak English. So we’ve got to work through that,” Friesen said.

“We’ve also got some mental health trauma beginning to surface in different ways. So that’s an ongoing concern.”

ISS of B.C. has 14 volunteers working to identify housing and other assistance and the refugee wave is like nothing they’ve seen in recent years, particularly when it comes to big families.

The number of Syrian families arriving over the past 10 weeks with six or more family members has now surpassed the number of assisted refugee families of that size of all nationalities that arrived over the previous six years since 2010.

A total of 1,541 Syrian government-assisted refugees in 343 families had arrived in B.C. as of the end of February. Those numbers don’t include additional privately sponsored refugees.

Canada declared it had met its interim target of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February.

But Friesen noted still more Syrian refugees are expected to come to B.C. in the months ahead.

He predicted another 1,600 government-assisted Syrian refugees were likely to enter the province by the end of the year, plus up to 900 non-Syrians.

– with files from Phil Melnychuk

Just Posted

Kalyn Head (teal shorts) and friends at Fairfield Park after approximately 98 kilometres of a 100-kilometre run/walk she did to raise money for Chilliwack Community Services on her 23rd birthday on July 23, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack’s Kalyn Head plans birthday ultra-marathon to benefit Special Olympics BC

Head did the same thing last year, raising $6,000 for Chilliwack Community Services

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

The Agassiz-Harrison Museum celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 with special information about The Stó:lō Nation, culture, language and more. (Graphic/Agassiz-Harrison Museum)
Agassiz-Harrison Museum to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 will feature info about local First Nations culture, language and more

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

Most Read