Plane carrying 300 Ukrainian refugees scheduled to arrive in Halifax next week

Volunteers are busy less than a week before a government-chartered plane carrying Ukrainian refugees arrives in Halifax.

Rick Langille has spent weeks gathering donated items for Ukrainians and packing them in storage units.  And he’s not expecting to slow down anytime soon.

“Donated furniture. housewares, kitchenware, microwaves, clothing,” Langille said.

There are bikes, dressers, dining tables, car seats and more.

“We’ve been working hard to try to stalk up and stack to the rafters,” he said.

Truckloads have already gone to newcomers.

However, with a plane of Ukrainians arriving next week, there’s a need for more items like beds, box springs, mattresses, student desks and car seats for children.

Langille is also searching for a centre to distribute the items because the owner of the storage facility where they’re currently storing furniture and items has told them it’s against policy to distribute goods from there.

“A warehouse, or an empty store, or an empty office building temporarily,” he said.

A chartered flight carrying more than 300 Ukrainians has already landed in Winnipeg. The same will happen this weekend in Montreal and again on Thursday in Halifax.

“Each charter will likely be in the range of about 300 or a little bit more,” said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

Maritimers like Langille are opening their homes. Agencies like the YMCA and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) have set up supports. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is preparing to help with translation and networking.

“We actually don’t know how many will stay. The charter is coming to Halifax but some of them most likely will go to P.E.I., New Brunswick, Newfoundland,” said Lyubov Zhyznomirska with Nova Scotia’s chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

While the federal government is offering a two-week hotel stay and six weeks of income supports for refugees as of June 2, some Ukrainians who have already arrived say finding housing is challenging.

Anna Zherdetska and her family have been staying at an Airbnb that was donated to them since early May, but every time they’ve tried to apply for a house or apartment, they’ve been rejected. It’s happened more than 10 times now.

“They reject us because we are new in the country. We don’t have credit scores,” said Zherdetska.

They have new bank accounts but no credit score. Her husband has a job and her two kids are settling in school. She wants landlords to give newcomers a break. 

“Just a little trust and help, that’s it. Just trust us. We will pay on time. Just trust and a little help,” she said.

A sentiment echoed by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

“I would like to encourage apartment buildings and properties being leased or rented out that some flexibility is applied to these people,” Zhyznomirska said. “There is a system to come up with answers to be able to rent to people who have no credit history.”