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Alberta providing $4.32M to help Ukrainians find temporary living

The Alberta government is providing $4.32 million to help Ukrainian evacuees find temporary living when they arrive.

The announcement, made Friday, says the funding is for emergency accommodations over the next four months to supplement support from the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

It says the funds will increase the number of hotel rooms and will cover the costs of transportation to hotels available in Calgary and Edmonton when Ukrainians arrive.

Hotel rooms will also be available in Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat. It’s unclear if transportation costs will be covered in these cities.

“Alberta’s government is providing additional funding to ensure that Ukrainian evacuees have a safe place to stay when they first arrive in Alberta,” said Rajan Sawhney, the minister of trade, immigration, and multiculturalism.

“This new funding comes directly from consultations with community partners that flagged the need for increased supports for evacuees. I will continue to advocate for more funding from the federal government to ensure Ukrainians have all the supports they need to settle in Alberta.”

Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, the parliamentary secretary for the Ukrainian Refugee Settlement in the province, says the funding will “ease pressures on Ukrainian families and the agencies that are supporting them.”

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On Wednesday, Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers held an evacuee housing campaign, and he said there was a “desperate, dire need” for host homes.

“It’s reaching the proportions of being a crisis moment. We have pulled people out of the airport who have stayed there two or three nights because they could not find housing. We’ve pulled people off the streets to try to ensure that they are not homeless,” said Kelly Ernst, chief program officer at Centre for Newcomers, in a news conference.

He says the centre is looking for hosts to offer one month’s accommodation. The evacuees will pay for utilities and have support from the centre to find permanent housing of their own.

On Friday, Ernst told CityNews that the support “will help significantly for immediate short-term emergency arrival scenarios.”

“The Centre for Newcomers has identified people in shelters, sleeping at the airport, and on the street, and these funds will alleviate such scenarios,” Ernst’s statement reads.

“It will also significantly help in the planning and assistance of additional Ukraine evacuees arriving to the city.”

However, he says the funding doesn’t “negate the need for host homes.”

“The volume of arrivals is so great. We still need host homes for immediate housing, assistance in accommodation beyond the 14-day hotel stay period, and assistance with resettlement in the city. It will take a multipronged effort.” he said.

“Hotel accommodation is one part, host homes is another, with permanent housing as the goal. All parts of the system and citizens must work together to address the evacuees’ needs.”

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The province has seen more than 28,000 Ukrainians arrive since the war began.

In Alberta, there have been around 1,100 arrivals in the last few weeks since the end of March, and Calgary is expected to see about half of that number.

This also comes as Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was expected to meet in a combined event with the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association (UCPBA) of Calgary and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for “An Evening with the Premier” on April 4.

It was cancelled Wednesday for unknown reasons.

“UCPBA Calgary regrets to advise that owing to circumstances beyond our control, it has become necessary to postpone our Evening with the Premier event, previously scheduled for April 4, until later this year. UCC-APC will be in touch with ticket purchasers during the week of April 3 to arrange for refunds,” it said on its website.

-With files from Danina Falkenberg

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