Housing is an ongoing need for Ukrainian refugee families who have fled their homeland for Kamloops since Russia invaded the European country in February.
Kamloops Immigrant Services (KIS) has been inspecting homes and meeting with homeowners wishing to provide places to stay and short-term accommodation for Ukrainian refugees and continues to see a need for more housing options. The organization assists refugee families arriving as temporary residents under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET).
In late June, KIS executive director France Lamontagne told KTW 61 displaced Ukrainian refugees among 14 families are residing in the Kamloops area. On average, she said, about four Ukrainian refugees have been arriving in Kamloops every week.
All 61 to date have found housing — most having arrived with a temporary residence for the next three to six months already in place. However, about five families, consisting of 24 refugees, are now in need of finding long-term housing by August, Lamontagne said.
“We continue to keep an eye on long-term stays. The problem we’re hearing is that some landlords want guarantors and co-signors,” Lamontagne said.
She said most renters would only need to prove their income, sign a tenancy agreement and put down a deposit. She said she is dismayed that more is being asked of displaced Ukrainian families.
Lamontagne said it can be a challenge for some of the larger families to afford two- or three-bedroom homes, noting that given the lack of childcare spaces in Kamloops, some have just a single parent working.
“You can’t pay $2,200 a month or even $1,800 a month with just one wage,” Lamontagne said, adding most working-age refugees have found jobs locally.
Lamontagne said all school-aged Ukrainian refugee children have since been registered in School District 73.
Matches are being made between Ukrainian refugees and housing providers, with expectations being exceeded, according to an email update from KIS, which also noted a community organization donated a duplex with a year of free rent for two Ukrainian families.
Refugees also receive a welcome package from KIS that includes information about Kamloops and $200 from a community fund for the refugees. To date, the fund has raised $40,000.
“Most have not come here with savings and they are starting from scratch,” Lamontagne said.
The federal government has launched the Ukrainian Transitional Financial Assistance program to help those arriving in Canada under CUAET with a one-time, non-taxable benefit of $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child.
The B.C. government has announced Ukrainian citizens arriving in B.C. under CUAET can now apply for hardship assistance from the province. Eligibility is based on need and can be as much as $935 per month for a single person and as much as $1,770 per month for a family of four. The maximum for a single person with a disability is $1,358.50 per month and $2,193.50 per month for a family of four, in which one adult is a person with a disability.
KIS is directing donations to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, where Ukrainian refugees can visit and receive what they need through a voucher program. The United Way and KIS, alongside members of Kamloops’ Ukrainian Society and TRU World, are hosting monthly dinners for Ukrainian refugees.
KIS continues to look for donations and volunteers to assist Ukrainian refugees arriving in the city. Laptops and computers in good condition are items in particular need.
Anyone looking to lend a hand can call the organization at 778-470-6101.