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Simcoe County families open doors to Ukrainian refugees

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Several Simcoe County families are opening their doors to Ukrainians in need.

Over the past few weeks, Russ Jeffery and his family of five have been watching the war unfold and brainstorming ideas of how they can help Ukrainians fleeing their homeland.

The family agreed to clear a room in their house for a family looking to start a new chapter in Barrie.

"There's an immediate, obvious need that will make an enormous difference in someone's life and hardly make a difference in ours. It's an easy choice," said Jeffery.

On Saturday night, Jeffery says a Ukrainian family with two young children will arrive in Barrie and have their own suite that features multiple beds, a bathroom, and a kitchenette for as long as they need it.

The process that led to this all started when the Jeffery family signed up for the website ICanHelp.Host, an online platform that allows people worldwide to advertise a room in their home to Ukrainians looking for refuge.

Dozens of people across Simcoe County have already signed up and are offering suites and bedrooms.

"It's a small thing that we can do for them," said Daria Kuznetsova an

Orillia resident.

"Right now, we are in contact with several families looking to relocate to Canada."

Although they only have one room in their home, Kuznetsova says families of any size are welcome to stay with them.

Innisfil resident Kirstyn Anello has been a member of the website for several weeks and has already been contacted by several Ukrainians interested in coming to the area.

"We have the space, we have it in our hearts, and we have the desire to help," said Anello.

She hopes to have someone fill her spare room, pending visa approvals, by the end of April.

Christina Clark-Kazak, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, told CTV News on Saturday that Canadians' outpouring of support and generosity is well-intentioned but says websites that have limited screening, or none at all, could put Ukrainians at risk.

"For example, the UK had the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and they had to adjust it because of sexual exploitation that young women were facing in that scheme," said Clark-Kazak.

As more and more Ukrainians look to secure Visas and come to Canada, hosts that are not vetted but the government could lead to people being abused.

"There's an inherent risk here, and I think there needs to be more oversight," said Clark-

CTV News contacted the Federal Minister of Immigration to comment on the government possibly convening in the vetting process of hosts, and we've yet to hear back. 

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