In Focus Lecture: Finding Home – Transformative Places Where Refugee Claimants Flourish

Watch the recording

Speakers for the event


Mohammed was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza- Palestine. He holds a degree from the University of Palestine, Gaza with an honors in Business Administration and Accounting.

Since moving to the unceded land of the Coast Salish peoples’, Mohammed has been advocating for refugee claimants’ housing, right to work, and helping them find belonging through his work with different organizations. This has included his current position at Kinbrace Community Society as a Housing & Employment Worker and previous internship position as an Administrative Assistant with the Multi Agency Partnership (MAP BC) and Zaytuna Services Society. 

He is working on a wide variety of projects including addressing the economic immobilities of racialized migrant youth with Solid State Community Industries, and a Research Assistant and Country Co-Investigator (CCI) on the Global Leadership & Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) with SFU.

Mohammed is a member of the City of Vancouver’s Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee and Co Director of LightWork Consulting Cooperative.

VANESSA ROTH, Journey Home Community

Vanessa Roth is the Program Manager at Journey Home Community. Having worked with vulnerable populations in Canada and internationally for the last 10 years, Vanessa found her place at Journey Home Community in June of 2018 in the Settlement Supervisor Position. She stepped into the Program Manager role last spring where she now oversees Journey Home Community’s Housing, Settlement, Volunteers, and “Communities of Welcome for Refugee Claimants” programs.  She works within the team to help create a system of quality support and care for Refugee Claimants as well as collaborates and builds relationships with sector stakeholders and community groups and agencies.

Moderated by

LOREN BALISKY, Director of Engagement, Kinbrace – Refugee Housing & Support

Loren is one of the co-founders of Kinbrace and lived with his family in the transitional housing community from 1998-2017. In his current role as Director of Engagement, Loren works with the Board of Directors to promote the values and strategic vision of Kinbrace while resourcing its mission to support refugee claimants regionally and nationally. Loren, with his partner Tama and their two young adult children Abigail and Oliver, live in Vancouver.

Background Information

You are invited to see a video made by MOSAIC’s BC CHARMS Project under MAP. The video is a series of interviews with refugee claimants about their journey to acquire permanent rental housing and what ‘home’ means to them.

Written by Rawan Moon (VAST)

Obtaining decent and affordable housing in a safe and welcoming neighborhood is an anchor point for a new start in Canada. The challenges faced by asylum seekers in finding affordable, appropriate and sustainable housing is consistently raised as one of the primary issues affecting a positive start in Canada.

Refugee claimants face many obstacles in regard to acquiring housing from the moment of their arrival on Canadian land. Prior to arriving, their experiences of having lived through forced migration, and the resulting trauma they may have experienced or witnessed during their lifetime contribute to a host of issues, from mental health to extreme economic insecurity. As a result, asylum seekers (or refugee claimants as they are called in Canada) suffer social inequality in Canada.  

Further disadvantages appear after their arrival and initial integration, such as feelings of isolation, due to their separation from old social networks, as well as stress caused by having to adapt quickly to completely new surroundings and a different society. In many cases, lack of language skills can be a major stressor in all facets of life in the host country, causing further social inequality.    Some of these vulnerabilities become heightened and compounded while searching for housing by factors such as lack of knowledge of the housing and rental market, the realization of their economic disadvantages, lack of language skills, as well as racism and discrimination by landlords and real estate agents, which tends to affect visible minorities more than white Canadians and white immigrants. 

Asylum-seekers, are particularly vulnerable to a range of human rights violations, including violations of the right to adequate housing. They are also vulnerable to discrimination, racism and xenophobia, which can further interfere with their ability to secure sustainable and adequate living conditions.  Unfortunately, there are reports of racism and discrimination by some landlords, who are unwilling to rent their properties to refugees. There are also reports of an increase in number of landlords trying to evict tenants; where the reasons are not always legitimate and/or proper notice is not always given. More and more claimants are needing to go to court to resolve tenancy disputes.  Also, because of their legal status and exceptionally low incomes to rent adequate accommodation, many are forced to live in overcrowded and insecure conditions. Refugee claimants will also often end up living in precarious and unsafe conditions in cities and urban areas.

Despite all these challenges, asylum seekers who make it to Canada are incredibly strong and grateful for the opportunity to be in a new country. Asylum seekers have the same basic desires as everyone: to have their children succeed in school and to be able to put a roof over their heads. After everything they had already been through, they do the best they can to keep their families afloat in this new place. 

Articles, Stories and Reports about Refugee Claimants and their Housing

Research Reports

MAP's In Focus Series

IN FOCUS is a MAP BC Information Working Group initiative designed to open public dialogue on important refugee claimant issues. The four-part online lecture series, open to everyone, ties local to international refugee claimant issues. IN FOCUS invites well known speakers to address issues of concern and converse directly with participants in open Q&A periods.