OMSSA is featuring several 2023 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read this entry from the County of Simcoe below.
Working in community-based planning is rewarding. It is gratifying to foster partnerships that create local solutions for people arriving in Simcoe County. Community stakeholders did not disappoint, working collaboratively to help Ukrainians find a temporary new place to call home.
On February 24, 2022, war broke out in Ukraine, creating a global crisis complicated by layers of challenging trauma, family separation, and practical needs.
The flow of Ukrainians into Canada began with the development of the Canada Ukrainian Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET). The CUAET pathway initially opened to Ukrainians on March 17, 2022. Issued outside normal refugee resettlement processes, the CUAET limited access to programs and supports for Ukrainians arriving in Canada.
The volume of Ukrainians arriving in Canada is exceptional. Between March 2022 and October 2023, Canada received nearly 1.2 million CUAET visa applications, and 922,590 applications were approved. Accordingly, 198,642 individuals arrived in Canada under CUAET as of October 14, 2023. Canada has stopped accepting applications and approved CUAET holders must arrive in Canada by March 31, 2024 to be eligible for existing benefits.
Over time, exemptions for CUAET holders were made in many areas of service delivery. The Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) shared information and updates with settlement partners and mainstream organizations on a weekly basis. A new section on the immigration website was created to share information and supports with Ukrainian CUAET holders.
In May 2022, the Simcoe County LIP hosted two online community information sessions to coordinate local system planning, identify gaps, and brainstorm potential solutions. Securing temporary and permanent housing, transportation, and childcare were some of Ukrainian's greatest challenges. The Simcoe County LIP engaged in solution-focused planning with local systems to bridge gaps.
Additionally, the United Way of Simcoe County Muskoka changed the parameters of the Urgent Needs Fund to make supports available to individuals in Canada on temporary permits. This is a local financial support program offered to residents experiencing, or at risk of, poverty who have emergency or time-sensitive urgent needs.
Temporary accommodations were made available by IOOF, a local not-for-profit agency in a 20-unit unoccupied seniors' centre. These units were empty as part of a larger plan for demolition and further expansion. In the interim, the building provided housing and a central location for 61 Ukrainians to connect socially, share their settlement experiences, and continue to celebrate their shared culture and language.
This solution was temporary, and it became a priority to help move individuals and families residing in the building to more permanent housing.
County staff utilized a small portion of the Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) funds to support the YMCA of Simcoe-Muskoka Immigrant services rapidly re-house the Ukrainians residing in the temporary location. Specifically, the YMCA provided a dedicated housing navigator and settlement worker who was also Ukrainian. Ultimately, 56 people (families and individuals) were able to secure permanent housing in three months. This rapid re-housing pilot illustrates the effectiveness of facilitating housing through the settlement sector.
The County of Simcoe designated a childcare representative to be a key contact for all Ukrainian arrivals. This individual helped families find childcare spots and secure fee subsidies, a necessity for helping them secure employment (particularly for the many moms settling in Canada without partners able to share childcare responsibilities).
Furthermore, interested Ukrainians participated in a childcare assistant training program funded by the County of Simcoe. Five Ukrainian participants are now working in the childcare sector, helping to address local labour force pressures.
The footprint of new Ukrainians in our community was evident at the recent annual Simcoe County Newcomer Recognition Awards. Ukrainians were recognized for their contributions in three nomination categories. Awards were distributed for an outstanding youth, mentor, and artist. A standing ovation and the tears in the house when opera singer Dmytro Garbovskyi performed "Falcons" are a testament to the unique and intangible significance of working collaboratively to create welcoming communities by supporting newcomers to Canada.
Submitted by Sandra Lee. Sandra is the Manager of Strategic Partnerships with the County of Simcoe, Business Intelligence and System Planning department. She has been overseeing the work of the Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership since 2011.
Blog categories: Immigration, Settlement, Housing, Child Care, County of Simcoe