Refugee family of nine struggles to find home
Thursday, February 25, 2016

After three years of living in limbo in Jordan and then six weeks spent in a Surrey hotel, the Sua’Ifan family from Syria is ready for a permanent home. But a home in Metro Vancouver is proving elusive for a family of nine.

The father, Bassam Sua’Ifan, said through a translator that he has looked at many places since the family arrived in mid-January, but they are either too small or the landlords have balked at the prospect of hosting two parents and seven children.

On one occasion, he thought he had found an apartment, but settlement workers deemed it too small for the family. “We can’t wait until we go to our house,” he said.

The least expensive place they have come across that was big enough to house the family rented for $2,000 per month, he said. This is a problem because the shelter allowance paid to them by the federal government, based on provincial welfare rates, is about $800 a month.

While Sua’Ifan is grateful this country opened its doors to his family (“We owe our lives to Canada,” he says), he worries that when the family finds a home, they will have to choose between buying food and paying rent.

Their situation is far from unique, said NDP MP Jenny Kwan, noting that she’s met Syrian families who have been living in temporary housing since late December, a far cry from the two weeks that immigration officials had planned for. “I’ve yet to meet a family that has been settled in two weeks that’s a government-assisted refugee,” she said.

In Ottawa, Immigration Minister John McCallum said that just over half (52 per cent) of the 23,098 refugees who arrived since Nov. 4 have been moved into permanent housing.

The number is lower in B.C., where 531 of the 1,207 government-assisted Syrian refugees — 44 per cent — have been moved into permanent homes, said Chris Friesen, settlement services director for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

This is due to the lack of housing, especially larger units, that are affordable for families living on income assistance, be they refugees or longtime residents, Kwan said, calling on Ottawa to reinvest in subsidized housing.

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Source: Vancouver Sun