Syrian housing idea takes root

Community team hopes to renovate a municipally owned home to welcome Syrian refugee families

Jan Mears and Coun. Tara Ney check out the municipally owned house on Hampshire Road that Mears hopes council will consider allowing the community to renovate for housing for Syrian refugee families.

Jan Mears plans to mobilize the community and renovate a municipally owned home to welcome Syrian refugee families.

Spurred by a presentation to Oak Bay council by Cairine Green, Mears took the task to the next level, creating a framework to take to council in March. Armed with a report – the proposed project’s first donation, offered gratis by Pillar to Post Home Inspection – she’ll have a better idea of what would be required to bring the home up to snuff.

“A community group is coming together to raise the funds and source the donated services and materials necessary,” Mears said. “We wanted to see if we can make it safe, liveable and affordable.”

With no dream kitchen or magazine landscaping in mind, she envisions simple and clean and able to get Syrian refugee families integrated into Oak Bay.

“This idea simply needed community momentum and I am grateful for the support of others,” said Green. “We will take it one step at a time and hope that something comes of it all. The potential is exciting and positive and is such an opportunity for community-building.”

Mears already touched base with Habitat for Humanity and HeroWork (which recently renovated a Threshold Housing Society property adjacent to Oak Bay).

“There is a lot of community support to find ways to support Syrian refugee housing. Whether this is the option is yet to be determined,” said Coun. Tara Ney.

“There is remarkable compassion nestled in this community, this would be an opportunity for that compassion to come out.”

During his inaugural speech after the November 2014 election, Mayor Nils Jensen said the land at 1531 Hampshire Rd. would see a resolution in this four-year term.

The lot was originally purchased to create parking.

“Times have changed, we see more people out bicycling and walking. There’s a raised awareness that  getting out of your car is a good thing,” said Mears. “And I think it’s good for Oak Bay to be part of the larger world. There are 400 people coming to Victoria, why not Oak Bay?”

Mears’ proposed project team includes members of each constituency group – or Syrian refugee sponsorship group – in the area, including churches and private citizens.

The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria will make a presentation on “Welcoming Syrian Refugees to our Community – Support and Services Needed for Success” during a public Community Association of Oak Bay-sponsored meeting on Feb. 29 at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 2121 Cedar Hill X Rd. from 7 to 9 p.m.

To learn more about the cause and how to donate time or services email janmarymears@gmail.com.