New Welcome House Officially Launched

On UN World Refugee Day, a groundbreaking project breaks ground on Victoria Drive.

Immigrants and refugees escaping war, famine and persecution will soon have help from a regional services hub in Vancouver - a one-stop transitional housing and targeted support services centre operated by Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

Political leaders and other dignitaries joined ISSofBC in celebrating the occasion.  Patricia Woroch, CEO, stated "all those long years ago we weren't really sure this day was going to happen.  But here we are!"  She thanked the community, saying "we couldn't be more fortunate to find such a welcoming neighbourhood".

This type of facility does not currently exist anywhere in the world.  As Jan Rice, GM of CMHC BC Region stated "a safe and affordable place to call home is important to Canadians and their families".  Mayor Gregor Robertson said the project is "redefining refugee resettlement and support".  It is hoped that the new Welcome House will serve as a new global standard of care and example for other communities.

President of ISSofBC, Manchan Sonachansingh, said the new Welcome House will bring numerous benefits for both clients and the larger community, including "reducing the stress of resettlement, saving time and the limited financial resources of the newcomers, and increasing the efficiency and impact of government funding."

The 58,000 square foot facility comprises a five-storey building including underground parking and featuring a clinic, meeting rooms, a community kitchen, a food bank, garden plots, child minding space and offices as well as residential units with 62 bedrooms accommodating up to 138 beds.  It is being built to achieve LEED gold certification.

The new Welcome House will bring together several other organizations, public institutions, government services and specialized programs including an integrated first language health service program with refugee trauma treatment services, multilingual settlement support, government outreach offices for both the federal and provincial government services, the ISSofBC corporate offices and a Vancity banking kiosk.

The final guest speaker of the event, Yasin Muktar Mussa, a client of ISSofBC, described to the audience how his family had left Somalia and spent time in a refugee camp in Eritrea before coming to Canada.  He thanked the Society saying "at Welcome House we get a lot of help.  It makes me happy that others will be happy" in the new project.