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Ukrainian newcomers struggle to find a home in Waterloo Region

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Newcomers from Ukraine are having a hard time finding a new place to call home amid the ongoing housing crisis in Ontario.

Yevhenii and Hanna Shcherbak moved from Ukraine to St. Jacobs a month ago.

They hoped it was beginning of a better life for their family of five.

The Shcherbaks told CTV News, through a translator, that while the community has been very welcoming they have also experienced significant challenges.

“It’s finding a place, and we know the places here are very expensive,” said Yevhenii Shcherbak.

They’re one of eight families currently staying in a guest house that’s part of the Waterloo Region Grassroots Response to the Ukrainian war.

Ahmad Abu Seyam works at the house as a coordinator.

A newcomer to Canada himself, Seyam is dedicated to helping more Ukrainian families in Canada.

“I’m here now six months in Canada, five months in this house, and I received around 30 families,” he told CTV News.

Seyam worries there isn’t enough help for people who need it.

He said Ukrainians who arrive on work permits don’t qualify for the same government supports as refugees.

“I’m not saying all Ukrainians are coming without money. There are Ukrainians coming with the money, but they are begging ‘give us a place to rent.’ No one is giving.”

Seyam is calling on local landlords to help newcomers by offering shorter leases with reduced rent upfront.

“I need something direct to live in, I need something to pay month-by-month, not make a contract for a year or two years,” Seyam said. “You’re expecting for me to a good man, I will be a good man, I will follow all of your rules because I am in need.”

Since arriving in Canada, Yevhenii Shcherbak has found work as a general labourer. He’s hoping to eventually be a foreman.

The Shcherbaks have one month left at the guest house where they are staying but then the family will need to find another place to live.

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