As 10,000 Syrian refugees prepare to make their way to Canada before the end of the year, the question in many people’s minds is: where will they live?
In our committee, the task of tackling that question has fallen to Marit Quist-Corbett. A retired ESL teacher with the Ottawa Carleton District Schoolboard, and an immigrant from Holland herself, Marit was motivated to join the refugee committee because of her two decades of experience in helping newcomers learn English and adapt to life in Canada.
She’s working on a tight timeline. This week, we were given the names of the six people in the family we’re sponsoring: mother Nirmeen; father Mohamad; sons Mohamad Abdullah, and Zeid; and daughter Lyana. We were also told they could be arriving in a matter of weeks.
It’s hard to know what accommodation will best suit the family. One the one hand, Marit has been in touch with the owner of an apartment in Old Ottawa South, who is offering the first month’s rent for free. The rent for the rest of the year would be covered by the Canadian government and the sponsorship committee; but following that, the family will pay out of their own pockets. Old Ottawa South is an expensive neighbourhood — does it make sense to enter into this arrangement?
On the other hand, some empty-nesters have stepped forward offering to welcome the family into their home for the first few months while they get settled. This would mean less privacy, but potentially more support. And it still leaves the question of long term living accommodations up in the air.
The good news is that we have options, and it seems certain that the family will have some place to stay when they arrive. For Marit, it’s mainly a question of finding a place where the family can be safe and comfortable while they get over the initial culture shock of coming to Canada.