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YMCA teams up with County to help Ukrainian refugees find permanent housing

The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka is continuing its efforts to provide support to Ukrainian refugees looking for permanent housing in Simcoe County.

For much of the last year, approximately 60 people who fled Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country have been living at the IOOF Senior's Home in Barrie. The site had an empty building as it was slated for demolition.

"It's been great to have kids around the building, to see them running around," said Garry Hopkins, the CEO of IOOF Barrie. "It's been great to see some of the families starting to feel some comfort and starting to get over some of the stresses they've been experiencing, so it's been an amazing experience."

However, with that building set to be demolished in the coming weeks, those families were told they had to find a permanent housing solution by June 30.

"The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka has taken a lead role in finding housing and working with the families and the individuals to find permanent living situations that fit their needs and what they are looking for in terms of housing," said Dave Hamilton, the YMCA's immigrant services team leader.

To meet the demand, the YMCA hired a housing coordinator, a new position meant to streamline the process and achieve maximum success.

"I've been working as a settlement council for 13 years, so I know this community quite well," says Yana Skybin, who transitioned to the new role of housing coordinator. "I'm supporting these individuals with multiple needs like applying; I've been calling, applying for retention fund or talking to people like, say, somebody who asks can you please call with me because I'm not able to understand what I'm being told."

The work is very personal for Skybin, who is Ukrainian and has family in the war-torn nation. Most individuals housed at the IOOF Senior's Home have found permanent solutions. As of Monday, only 8 out of 61 needed a home, with five choosing not to ask the YMCA for assistance.

"It's really the community's support that I can attribute all that success," said Skybin. "It's private real estate agents and the partners that were already involved, and definitely, the media helped because we had a lot of individuals just reaching out to us."

Svitlana Kalachnyk moved into her new home last month thanks to help from the YMCA. She has found a home in the south end of Barrie that she's sharing with two other families she met while staying at the IOOF.

"I'm full of happiness to be here," said Kalachnyk. "I have never felt so much support from people as in Canada." Top Stories

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