Grieving single mother Syrian refugee and her four children face homelessness


A family who fled the war and devastation in Syria to Vancouver Island looking for a safe haven, is now facing homelessness.

“They came with the hope that they could have a better life here,” said Malakah Hajj through translator and friend Hussein Dahab.

“Financially now, it is very difficult.”

The Hajj family came to Canada six years ago. Six months ago, Hajj’s husband, the main provider for the family, passed away from cancer.

Still grieving, the family was kicked out of subsidized housing in Langford one month ago. They believe it was because of noise.

“Neighbors were just very upset the children were playing outside making noise, they said,” said Dahab.

Community members like Dahab are helping put the family in a hotel for now, but those funds dry up in one month. In the meantime, what’s available for rent is far out of the family’s reach.

“They could not afford the housing,” said Dahab.

Out of reach housing is an issue not unique to this one family.

“It’s a huge issue. Not just for that family but for any family, for Canadians as well as for refugees,” said Adrienne Carter, director of services for the Vancouver Island Counselling Centre for Immigrants and Refugees (VICCIR).

Carter says the centre’s counsellors are seeing the direct impact of the cost of living in one of Canada’s most expensive cities on those seeking refuge here.

“The financial issues are causing a lot of stress. We’re seeing a high divorce rate, and people are separating because of it,” said Carter. “A lot of the newcomer families move out of Victoria to look for cheaper housing.”

For the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), the solution is about getting creative.

“There’s no silver bullet, but for us at ICA, it’s about looking at non-traditional ways of accessing what’s out there,” said Shelley D’Mello, CEO of the ICA.

“For instance, working with the real estate board. Universities are looking at seniors who might have rooms they can make available to international students at a discounted rate.”

It’s little consolation for the Hajj family, who only has one month left until they find themselves homeless in a country that was supposed to their port amidst a storm.

“We just want to go to school, and we want to have a house,” said Mohamed Hasan, one of Hajj’s sons.

READ ALSO: Advocates and members of the BCGEU are calling on province to implement vacancy control

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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