By early April, Prince George is projected to have well over 200 Ukrainian refugees.
That is according to Dick Mynen, a PG For Ukraine and Share Hope Volunteer, who said the pace at which new people are arriving is only increasing.
When My PG Now spoke to Mynen in February, there were only 163 Ukrainians in town.
“We have been in touch with 53 people who are wanting to come since we last spoke,” he said. “Next week we have 20 people coming, and in April we already have at least 10, probably 15 in the first week.”
Mynen credits this recent influx of people to the expiration of Canada’s Ukrainian visa program, which grants Ukrainian refugees a free Canadian visa.
This program was set to expire at the end of the month, Mynen said that raised urgency for people trying to come to Canada and Prince George.
Just this morning (Wednesday), Canada has extended the program for another four months, now expiring on July 15th.
Under the program, Ukrainians can remain in the country for up to three years.
The influx of people has kept PG For Ukraine on its toes, trying to find housing and funding to support people as they arrive in the city.
“We are always staying one step ahead of the influx,” Mynen said, “we are always in scrambling mode. It would be nice to know we have some capacity lined up before we start saying ‘yes’ and then start looking for capacity.”
As always, Share Hope is looking for host families who can take in newcomers, or anyone with a lead on housing for families.
Some people coming to Prince George have already been in Canada for a number of weeks.
Mynen said the support Prince George has been able to give has been a pull for Ukrainians living in larger Canadian centers like Vancouver, where the cost of living is higher and some of the supports might not be as strong, and we have seen some relocate to Prince George from within Canada.
He added their top four needs have not changed since this initiative began, though all of them have fought for number one priority at times – housing, money, jobs, and childcare.
In January, that primary need was money.
Since then, Mynen said they have received a very generous donation that he hopes to announce soon, and Miracle Theatre is about to begin its spring campaign, that will, in part, benefit PG for Ukraine.
Last year’s Miracle Theatre campaign raised over $150,000.
Anyone interested in reaching out to Share Hope to help, donate, or ask any questions can email [email protected].
Mynen closed by reminding the community the war still has real consequences on people who have escaped.
“It is front and center,” he said. “We see people that are here that are struggling because of the effects of the war… and the long distance they are having with family.”
“Anything we are doing is to respond to that and help out in any way, but sometimes we forget the most obvious thing. These people are hurting.”
– With files from the Vista national news wire