Viktoria and her husband, Yuri, and son, Sasha, all came to Canada in September 2009 from Ukraine.
The connection between Viktoria and New Journey Housing started even before Viktoria and Yuri landed in Winnipeg. Victoria had emailed before leaving Ukraine to learn more about temporary housing options and the wider picture of housing in Winnipeg. By very good fortune, NJH met with someone that was looking for house/cat sitter for one month. Through some sharing of information and pictures, Viktoria and her family ended up house sitting while they found their bearings in Winnipeg.
Once the house sitting was over, Viktoria and Yuri moved into a cozy rental home. They both worked multiple jobs, all while Viktoria worked on her PhD. After 3 years, they were able to save enough money to buy their first home on a quiet street in North Kildonan. Through all these many transitions, Viktoria and her family are still friends with the woman they house sat for – 10 years ago!
Viktoria and Yuri’s housing experience highlights how important it is to have the resources to reach out to people before arriving in Winnipeg. There is so much to learn and understand in any new city so connections made prior are extremely helpful for those going through the settlement journey.
Written by Codi Guenther, May 2019
Lemlem, Tsegay, and their 2 kids, arrived in Winnipeg in 2011 as privately sponsored refugees. They stayed with their sponsor upon arrival but then moved into a private market apartment in central Winnipeg that was within their tight budget. The apartment was in very poor condition with broken windows and bedbugs. This concerned Lemlem greatly and they wanted to move to a better place. But they knew that a better place usually meant higher rent. They learned about subsidized housing and quickly applied through the assistance of their housing advisor at NJH. They were very fortunate to get into a 3-bedroom unit through Westminster Housing Society and that is where they lived for the next 7 years! Their family has now grown to include 5 children and they just recently moved into their new home through Habitat for Humanity. They love their new 5 bedroom home, perched on top of a hill on a quiet St. Boniface street. They love the location and can’t get over how quiet it is compared to their previous home on a very busy West Broadway street.
Living in subsidized housing allowed Lemlem and family to save money, focus on education and to bring other extended family members to Canada. Since 2011 they have been involved in welcoming 4 families and 5 single adults to Winnipeg.
Written by Codi Guenther, May 2019
Nikky’s Housing Success Story
A story about how a newcomer like Nikky, who was so eager to learn and someone who takes initiative in her life, got ahead from gaining free information and housing services from New Journey Housing.
“I can’t calculate how much I’ve gained simply by getting good information from New Journey Housing,” was Nikky’s conclusion when she related her story. Nikky came to Canada in 2013 through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. She found her first apartment along Furby Street around the west-end area. It was the very first winter experience for this newly arrived Winnipeger that year. The apartment was very cold and Nikky had to find quick help when she realized her landlord was uncooperative. She went back to Entry Program where she received her first set of settlement training, and there she was advised to visit New Journey Housing. You could get all housing-related support you need at New Journey Housing, so was she told.
At New Journey Housing, a housing advisor warmly met Nikky and accompanied her to the Residential Tenancies Branch and, eventually her housing problem was resolved. Nikky could still fondly remember her housing advisor and she was grateful for all the support. Her housing advisor told her about IRCOM and helped her fill out an application form. She waited for 5 months before getting notified of an opening. It was worth the wait. At IRCOM, Nikky would be able to save two-thirds of her money for rent. Once she moved in IRCOM, Nikky made very good friends with her neighbours, and up to this time, a friend would look after her daughters whenever she needed to stay longer at work.
Nikky was a diligent and smart saver. She knew that she could stay at IRCOM for only 3 years, so she needed to be financially ready when the time comes for her to leave. One day, a teacher from New Journey Housing came to teach Home Purchasing Workshop at IRCOM. Nikky eagerly learned all the information and made every effort to understand how mortgage works. The teacher advised her to visit her bank right away and check how much she could be pre-approved for mortgage. Nikky immediately met with a mortgage specialist at a local bank and asked all her questions. The bank was amazed that she asked all the important questions. She got pre-approved for a good amount because she had enough savings to pay 20% of the mortgage for down payment. Now it was time for her to find a nice house to buy.
As she was walking around the neighbourhood one day, she found a For Sale sign in the lawn of a house. She called her housing advisor for advice on whether it was a good idea to buy the house or not. The housing advisor arranged for a volunteer home inspector who walked Nikky through the house and advised the house was in excellent condition.
Nikky has been happily living in her Goulding Street home with her two daughters since 2015. She related other benefits that she got just by attending workshops at New Journey Housing: she got free furnace and replaced some windows through information she got about a Manitoba Hydro program; she got her house electrical lines upgraded through a Manitoba Housing home renovation program; she learned to make use of tax-free savings account, handled her credit better and learned about a number of banking information from financial literacy series; and finished a Health Care Aide program for free from the information she got from a booklet displayed at New Journey Housing office.
Nikky still attends New Journey Housing’s workshops. Whenever an interesting workshop comes up, she would switch shifts with a co-worker so she could attend it. “Money doesn’t only come from one’s job; getting useful pieces of information is like earning money too,” Nikky said. Today, Nikky has a full time job and is herself a landlord. Whenever she meets newcomers, she would encourage them to go visit New Journey Housing at 305 Broadway and take advantage of free information they would be able to get there.
Written by Ireen Baylon, February 2019
This is Kuku. She came to Canada as a refugee claimant after living 3 years in the United States with a denied refugee claim. She had no choice but to cross the border with her 2 young sons in Sep. 2017. When she arrived, she said she was treated well at the border and brought to the family shelter at Salvation Army. Life at the shelter was very hard and scary for her and her kids. She spoke about how her then 7 year old had so many questions about why people are living in a shelter, why are people yelling, why are people so mean to one another? Kuku struggled to come up with answers for her son as she knew that many people struggle in life, as she has, and that she wanted to find the right words to convey how hard life can be for people without making her son feel ‘better than’ others that he sees at the shelter. She wanted to teach her son about compassion for others even when people aren’t at their best.
From the shelter, Kuku was able to move into transitional housing at Naomi House. There she lived with a supportive community of newcomers much like herself. She lived there for 6 months before getting into community housing at Peace Tower. She was able to apply and qualify for her apartment through her housing advisor at New Journey Housing. NJH knew there was an opening in the building because one of the current tenants was moving out because they were moving into their new Habitat home. This tenant had lived with subsidized rents for a number of years, found work, started paying market rent, then was able to move into their new home. This step by step process is something that Kuku is also following.
Kuku lives on EIA and has $550 every month for her basic needs – food, clothing, school supplies, medicine, bus fare, etc. She says every month is very tight and how even a little $10 extra request out of her budget is a lot of money for her. As Kuku is a refugee claimant that has yet to be granted permanent resident status, she does not qualify for the Canada Child Benefit.
Kuku speaks a lot about how she started from the bottom and is now slowly making her way up – step by step. She did this when she lived in the United States and is now going through it all over again here in Canada. She does it all for her children and gets her strength from them. Back in Ethiopia, her mother showed her how to work hard and provide for her 6 kids. Kuku works tirelessly and selflessly to be that same example for her kids. Her home is spotless and inviting. “When we moved in to the apartment we didn’t even have a spoon” she shares. We found out about Hands of Hope and they were able to help furnish our whole place for no costs – little by little. Kuku was also able to make use of the savings program at IRCOM through SEED Winnipeg. With the money she saved, she was able to buy bedroom furniture. She says “when my kids are happy, I can be happy too. They are my life”.
Written by Codi Guenther, May 2019
How has social housing helped?
This is Ahmad Al Matawie and Samah Al Kablawi’s family. They are currently living in a subsidized unit in Downtown Commons in Winnipeg. They came to Canada from Syria in 2015 with 2 children, but now their beautiful family has grown by another 2 children.
When asked how living in a subsidized unit has affected them, Ahmad spoke about the high prices in the private market and how they would have to take money from their basic needs budget for food and clothing to pay for the higher rent. He shared stories about friends of his that used to receive a subsidy but now are renting in the private market. He described how they are suffering because their budgets are so tight with the high rents.
Ahmad also had a very good understanding of how subsidized housing works and how his rent will increase when he starts to work. He said “It [the subsidy] is going to help me as my income increases. They will stop the subsidy once I’m working full-time, but that’s okay because I will be making enough money to pay for higher rent’. This is one of the great things about subsidized housing – when tenants no longer need it due to increased income, they move onto market rents and that in turn opens up the RGI units to another family in need.
The first place Ahmad and Samah lived in Winnipeg was like “living inside a disturbance”. They spoke about how they were always in fear due to the location of the building, people being loud on the streets below, cars being broken into and how they could not predict the actions of others that hung around the building. Ahmad said that because so many newly arrived Syrians lived in one building he felt like they were a target. When asked how they felt once they moved into Downtown Commons, both Ahmad and Samah wore big smiles and agreed – “very nice”.
Written by Codi Guenther, May 2019
This is a story about how a new immigrant who, despite having strong family ties in Canada, ended up living in a shelter when those ties broke down.
Rhoanne is a young lady who immigrated to Canada with her 2-year-old son under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. Her mother, who moved to Winnipeg several years earlier, fetched them from the Philippines and together they flew to Canada in 2016. It wasn’t long after Rhoanne and her son moved into her mother’s house that her mother’s partner, who was living with them, started making sexual advances at her while her mother was away at work. A month after arriving in Canada, with no other family or friends to turn to, Rhoanne fled her mother’s house and lived in a shelter. There she met Nia who had also fled from her home. After several weeks, Nia decided to go back home and invited Rhoanne to join her and be her tenant. Rhoanne felt comfortable joining a stranger like Nia because both of them spoke the same language.
After a few weeks at Nia’s, Rhoanne started feeling pressured and manipulated by Nia to loan her money. Rhoanne found herself in bad debt after a few months as Nia was unable and unwilling to pay back anything. Then Rhoanne and her son fled to the shelter again, with lots of debts she incurred from her time with Nia. At the Salvation Army shelter, she knew she could only stay for 3 months, then must move to a permanent place. With no other place to go, Rhoanne hesitatingly decided to go back home to her mother’s and take the risk of meeting her partner again. As she had thought, another sexual harassment incident happened, the police got involved, and Rhoanne was back at the shelter once again.
Thankfully, Rhoanne’s stay this time around was shorter than the previous one. She met a kind-hearted woman named Winnie who offered accommodations at her own house. Though it wasn’t an easy stay at Winnie’s because of bedbugs, at least Rhoanne and her boy felt safe. By word of mouth, Rhoanne and Winnie heard about the work New Journey Housing does for newcomers. They came to the office one day, and met with a housing advisor for help-- applying for subsidized housing for Rhoanne and bedbug treatment for Winnie. After a few months of waiting, Rhoanne finally got herself approved for 2-bedroom unit with SAM Management. New Journey Housing also picked up some used and new furniture, and kitchen stuff for her, and got her connected with a Neighbourhood Immigrant Settlement Worker in her area. Rhoanne and her son have had a smooth adjustment to their new living situation since then. After 2 years in Canada, Rhoanne’s son goes to day care while she attends English classes and studies to finish high school. She comes to New Journey Housing occasionally for housing-related advice and for help with filing her income tax returns.
Rhoanne’s first 8 months of living in Canada were very rough, full of tension and involved making hard decisions. Even though she came to Canada under the Provincial Nominee Program, that did not guarantee an easy transition to living in Canada. Now that Rhoanne lives in safe and stable housing, she is able to pursue her dreams.
Written by Ireen Baylon, May 2019