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Oak Bay home opening doors to refugees

Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria leases home to meet influx of refugees
Oak Bay owns two houses, one is leaded to the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

An Oak Bay-owned home returns to its roots as refugee housing this month.

In September 2020, Oak Bay and the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society signed a three-year agreement to house refugees. That lease terminated early this May and the district subsequently invited organizations to pitch potential uses for its smaller two-bedroom home and larger six-bedroom house.

In response, the Community Association of Oak Bay, Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) and the Greater Victoria Housing Society partnered up with each organization bringing its expertise to the table to pitch uses for the homes.

ICA leads the charge and signed a lease that started Nov. 1 for the smaller house. The future use of the larger home is unclear.

READ ALSO: 3 groups build relationships to house Ukranian family in Oak Bay

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively in partnership with the community,” interim CEO Winnie Lee said. The organization is excited about the collaboration with GVHS bringing its expertise in property management.

The home will house refugees, though their country of origin could vary.

“We do have quite a diverse refugee population that arrives in the Greater Victoria area,” Lee said. All are in need of safe, secure housing. That includes privacy, the reason the Oak Bay News is not including addresses.

The initiative kicked off as a response to a new influx of refugees coming from war-torn Ukraine. Several Greater Victoria residents opened their homes to individuals and families fleeing the conflict there.

READ ALSO: Housing crisis takes centre stage in Greater Victoria

Ukraine Vancouver Island has helped more than 530 newcomers on Vancouver Island. Hosts open their homes and offer food and shelter for 90 days while guests search for work and settle into a new life in Canada. The expectation is they will be self-sufficient within 90 days, said Karmen McNamara, founder of the non-profit Help Ukraine Vancouver Island.

With vacancies at an all-time low and rents at an all-time high, a Ukrainian refugee without a Canadian credit rating faces yet another hurdle finding more permanent housing.

The situation is fluid after that 90 days and depends on the situation. In some cases there has been an argument made for single women with children to remain another 90 days at Kiwanis Ukrainian Village, though that is currently full, McNamara said.

Some are offered the opportunity to stay with their host or pay rent to them, depending on the relationship.

“If neither of those are options we are looking at shelters. We are looking at every available resource and it’s not pretty,” McNamara said.

To learn more about how to offer housing or other help visit for more information.


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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