The interior of a shared space at Heatherington House at Kiwanis Village in Victoria, which is being opened up to temporarily house Ukrainian refugees. (Courtesy of Andriy Fabrikov)

The interior of a shared space at Heatherington House at Kiwanis Village in Victoria, which is being opened up to temporarily house Ukrainian refugees. (Courtesy of Andriy Fabrikov)

Victoria’s Kiwanis Village offers spaces to Ukrainian refugees

13 transitional units made available for those fleeing war

Nicole Crescenzi/Contributor

Incoming Ukrainian refugees will now have a safe transitory space when arriving in Victoria.

The Kiwanis Village Society, a branch of the Kiwanis Club of Victoria, has offered 13 units to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) – Victoria Branch to use as short-term living space for people seeking longer-term shelter in Victoria.

“We’re just like the rest of the community,” said David McLean, the society’s build committee chair. “We’re following this international tragedy and wanted to help in whatever way we could.”

Kiwanis Village is an eight-acre property in Victoria bounded by Cook Street, Cedar Hill Cross Road and Mallek Crescent. Within the property are shared and standalone spaces typically used to house independent, low-income seniors.

The Heatherington House building, which recently saw its last resident move to a more supportive facility, was originally targeted for future palliative care by the society.

“We said to our group, ‘maybe, if the Ukrainian community found that it could be helpful, we could use this space for them,’” McLean said. “There was no big controversy from the group – it was a given.”

The Kiwanis Village Society put forward the offer to the congress’ Victoria branch in early April, offering the facility at operating cost.

The offer couldn’t come at a better time: so far more than 100,000 Ukrainians have applied to come to Canada to flee the ongoing war.

“It’s absolutely incredible, we’re so floored by the generosity,” said branch president Devon Sereda Goldie. “It’s such a great location, it’s in the middle of the city and very easy to access things people will need, which is always a big concern.”

While over 400 Greater Victoria residents have offered spaces to the UCC for incoming Ukrainians, there is still a huge vetting process to make sure the spaces are safe and appropriate for people’s needs.

In the interim, as people are being matched, having a transitory space at Heatherington House offers a bit of breathing room for everyone.

The space has individual units as well as shared common spaces for residents, which Sereda Goldie said will be a blessing in itself.

“People arriving may not speak English. They’re in a country where everything is different; the money and transportation is different … I think it would be really comforting to be surrounded by other people who share your culture and community.”

The units are already available for when arrivals begin to come in, which should be any day now.

For more information on helping the UCC or incoming Ukrainians, visit ucc.ca/ucc-member/victoria-bc/ or ukrainehelpvi.ca.

ALSO READ: B.C. expands employment, education, mental health support for Ukrainian refugees

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