News / Winnipeg

New housing development ready to open its doors to Winnipeg newcomers

New IRCOM building in Winnipeg’s inner city will be home to 48 refugee families starting next week.

Executive director Dorota Blumczynska  of IRCOM (Immigration and Refugee Community Organization Of Manitoba) looks at the view for a seventh floor apartment in Winnipeg Manitoba, September 14, 2016.

Lyle Stafford/For Metro

Executive director Dorota Blumczynska of IRCOM (Immigration and Refugee Community Organization Of Manitoba) looks at the view for a seventh floor apartment in Winnipeg Manitoba, September 14, 2016.

A class of new refugees sat down for their very first English lesson in Winnipeg’s inner city on Wednesday.

It’s an occasion the newcomers won’t soon forget but it’s also marked a major milestone for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM).

The lesson was the first held in IRCOM’s new social housing project at 215 Isabel St., which is finally ready to open its doors to 48 families starting next week after four agonizing years of delays.

The building, which offers three-year transitional housing to new refugee families along with a wide range of social services, is the second location run by IRCOM (the first opened in 1991) and helps the non-profit tackle a 100-family wait list for its services.

“The need is great,” said IRCOM’s Shereen Denetto. “We have maybe two families move in and out a month at our current site. That’s a slow trickle. Not having this facility meant constant demand for housing and not being able to meet the need. Now that we’re opening it, we’ll significantly reduce our wait list for sure."

The project, which completely renovated and joined two former Manitoba Housing buildings on the site, was first announced in 2010 with a targetted opening in 2012.

It was hit with numerous delays and contractual issues since then before finally being handed over to IRCOM to operate.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Denetto said.

Once it receives its final occupancy permits from the city, Denetto expects the first four families to move in next week.

The rest will be phased in over the coming months.

The building is made up of 60 modular units that can be joined to create up to four-bedroom suites for large families (IRCOM says the average amount of children in the families it houses is four).

It also includes an on-site daycare, library, classrooms, access to legal and support services, laundry, bike storage and a bed bug heat treatment room.

Programming is also planned to help integrate newcomers into the Centennial community and especially connect them with indigenous groups.

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