Catholic Social Services is urging residents to open their doors to Syrian refugees.
The agency tasked with settling the government-sponsored refugees in Red Deer and Edmonton is seeking volunteers and accommodations.
Some 200 will arrive in Red Deer for a new start by year’s end and some 1,500 in Edmonton. The federal government will release the detailed plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees across Canada today.tuesday
Jason Gariepy, Catholic Social Services spokesperson, said the agency has been in similar situations with groups fleeing their home countries because of war including the Hungarians in the 1950s, the Chileans in 1973 and the Vietnamese in the 1980s.
“Every decade it seems there is a refugee crisis of some sorts,” said Gariepy. “Catholic Social Services has always been able to manage that need. This is going to present some interesting challenges but we are very confident that we are going to be able to accommodate the people that are coming.”
But Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen is concerned about the pressure the sudden influx of people will have on local agencies.
“There are a lot of other things that are required as well,” said Dreeshen. “You have to find schools. You have to find health care. You have to find all the other types of services. The community has to be ready in that way as well. The housing aspect of it is uptmost on everybody’s mind. Until the plan comes out, there’s still going to be nervousness associated with it.”
The housing application form has been on the organization’s website for about a week. Gariepy said he did not have concrete numbers but there has been strong support. He added it is difficult to say how much housing is needed because the agency does not have the specific number of refugees are coming.
“We know there are more opportunities today then there were a year or two years ago,” said Gariepy. “We are just working hard to identify all the options so we can get the best fit. Not just finding housing but housing that best matches the need.”
Gariepy said people can help the refugees, not just the Syrians, in other ways through its homework and cultural link programs. He said volunteers do not necessarily have to have a second language. He said they will match talent to an opportunity.
The agency will help them become acclimatized to not only the weather but the Canadian culture and the basics such as finding the grocery stores and using the telephone system.
Gariepy said this is something the agency does throughout the year because there is always a refugee in need.
“All of those elements of learning about Canadian culture and everyday things that most of us take for granted,” said Gariepy. “We work very closely with these families in those first 14 days to make sure they are on on their way of becoming settled. After the 14 days they move on and we continue to advocate for them. Hopefully by that time they have some supports in place. They can start properly integrating themselves into the community.”
People who are interested in volunteering or renting out a space can fill out a form on their website at www.catholicsocialservices.ab.ca. You can also call the Syrian refugee volunteer line at 780-391-3338.