Interview with Doug Peat, Housing & Donor Engagement: Journey Home Community and Co-chair – MAP Housing Working Group
Journey Home Community (JHC) offices are located just round the corner from the Royal Oak sky-train station in the heart of Burnaby, BC. ‘It’s an easy place for the families to get to’ says Doug Peat, one of JHC’s team of eight staff working to support refugee claimant families with transition housing, settlement support and a warm welcome upon their arrival into British Columbia.
JHC now in its 15th year (founded 2005), started as a dream by a few very committed individuals in Burnaby to provide safety, sanctuary and support to refugees claimants who arrived on BC shores and had no place to turn. Their mission statement summarizes what they do:
Inspired by God’s love, we are creating caring communities that offer refugee claimants housing, settlement support, and opportunities for connection.
Journey Home Community focuses on newly arrived refugee claimant families, single parents with children and when space permits, single women. The staff and volunteers walk alongside refugees claimants, through the chaos of their arrival to the stability of settlement.
In addition, staff work tirelessly to secure next-stage housing for the families when they ‘graduate’ out of JHC transition homes. This involves working with BC Housing, gaining the confidence of landlords, looking for unique opportunities to create more housing. And, when families secure a next home they are helped with their move and helped to set up a fully furnished first house!
With a small team how has Journey Home managed to help on average 8 – 10 residential families at a time and increase their reach to others who are out in the community but still need support?
Starting three years ago JHC developed a program called Communities of Welcome for Refugee Claimants: groups of at least 5 are trained by Journey Home to welcome families. Communities of Welcome provide housing and wraparound support in the same way as Journey Home staff. Currently there are six Communities of Welcome.
And during the pandemic how has the system worked?
The pandemic has thrown out the normal rhythm of support as already settled families suffer loss of employment, try to navigate systems online and support their children with schooling. JHC normally supports families for about a year but because of the unique challenges of COVID they expanded their help to 45 families. As well, JHC has provided extra resources such as rent subsidies, and laptops to the families needing them for distance learning, through new government grants.
Our Vision: We envision a society where all refugees experience hope and belonging as they engage in meaningful participation in their community and flourish in all aspects of life.
What is an example of a success you’ve had through your work with refugee claimants?
Amina arrived in Canada alone and traumatized. In her fight to stay alive, she had fled her home in the Middle East. After being warmly greeted at one of our Welcome Houses, she met the other residents, including Dunia.
Dunia, like Amina, had left behind her career and family in her country where her life was in danger. Perhaps bound together by the common thread of adjusting to a strange land and culture, they began helping each other. Step by step, Amina and Dunai grew closer. Through their shared experience of displacement and loneliness they became friends, eventually moving out to share a place.
When a staff member commented on how easily their friendship had formed, Dunai looked up in surprise. “ but our countries are enemies.” Amina and Dunai had come full circle- from enemies to housemates.
Is there anything else you’d like us to highlight?
RIDE FOR REFUGE
JHC has been proud to host the annual Ride 4 Refuge in Vancouver for the past five years.
This year, the Ride for Refuge Vancouver raised $390,000. 62% of this total was raised for Refugee Serving Organizations: Journey Home Community $119,000, Kinbrace Community $101,000, New Hope Community Services $17,000, and UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency $7,000.
Journey Home sends out this video thank you to the captains, participants, sponsors and donors who made this year’s event a success.
What are your future plans?
In the future one of JHC’s dreams is to work in conjunction with the refugee serving sector to develop a refugee claimant reception centre so that all arriving refugee claimants can avoid loneliness, isolation and homelessness, are welcomed and receive the support they need in the critical first few days.
To learn more about Journey Home Community visit: www.journeyhomecommunity.ca