A Ukrainian community group has issued an “urgent plea” for accommodation for refugees from the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia.
Karmen McNamara of Help Ukraine Vancouver Island said that an average of 10 refugees per week were coming to the Island over the past several months, but that recently ballooned to about 40 per week and continues to grow — making it difficult to find places for people to stay.
Just this past week 61 people arrived, McNamara said, bringing the total on the Island to 951.
“We had kind of settled into a bit of a routine where we knew what to expect, and then over the last few weeks we’re just seeing more and more,” she said.
McNamara praised the local response to the refugee situation. “The people of Victoria and Vancouver Island have really stepped up.”
On Friday, she said, there were two occasions where the volunteer-run group had to tell refugees that there were no host families for them, and all that could be offered was money for two days in a hotel.
“Where can they go after two days?” McNamara asked. “What do you do to help an 80-year-old woman who comes to you desperate for shelter?”
People generally get here with nothing more than a backpack or a small suitcase, she said.
And there are some situations where minors are travelling alone, so seeing to their needs is a priority, McNamara said.
Her group, which includes about 600 volunteers who help with things like finding housing and jobs, is trying everything it can think of to keep the newcomers from having to sleep on the streets, she said.
There has been no room in area shelter facilities, McNamara said.
“Most of our hosts offer a spare bedroom or two that they have in their home,” she said. “Some people happen to have a second property that they’re willing to lend to us. That’s amazing but we know that that’s rare.”
In other cases, people come forward with places they would normally rent out or use for Airbnb, and allow the group to have them at below-market rental rates, McNamara said.
“If we can get those more affordably, then we can usually make something work,” she said.
Prospective hosts, including those who could host on an emergency or short-term basis, are asked to go to the group’s website at ukrainehelpvi.ca to get involved.
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