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Community housing organization in Ottawa giving 20 women refugees a fresh start


Twenty women refugees have found a new start in Ottawa thanks to the help of a community housing organization.

Daybreak Housing shifted gears from its usual clientele after noticing the influx of refugees in the city's shelter system - many of whom fleeing from African countries.

"A lot of them were losing sleep, and if you're not sleeping well and you're feeling scared - especially coming all the way from Burundi or Uganda - how are you going to go out and apply for a job and present yourself well," said Daybreak supportive housing coordinator Leslie Malloch.

Ten women were housed in a south-end home in March and 10 more moved into a second south-end home over the weekend.

Jane Nakyuyune fled from an abusive marriage in Uganda. On Monday, she gave a tour of the space she and nine others are now able to call their own.

"When we went to our rooms, everything was there," she said. "We had towels, we had that toilet paper - we had everything that is needed for life."

It is a stark difference from the months she, and some of the other women, spent in the shelter system.

"We make food that we want to make; we shop in African food stores, cook for ourselves, and be happy."

"We feel at home," said fellow Ugandan refugee Sylvia Nanziri. "You can do each and every thing that you want - there's none of that limitation that was in the shelter."

Daybreak Housing already manages five homes across the Ottawa region. The procurement of two new ones for this latest project proved challenging.

"It took us three month for a landlord to rent us a property," said executive director Richard Johnson.

He says Ontario Works is helping to cover the rent for the two homes. Any remaining money ends up with the tenants, though Johnson says it is just enough to get them started here in Canada.

"They have to get work and they know that," he said. "They're out looking and we're helping, whether it's with resumes or pointing them in the right direction with employment services."

Nanziri says she has already registered for post-secondary education starting in August.

"Canada as a country and the government at large - they have helped us," she added through tears.

"This is something that have never seen in a country."

Daybreak officials say the only thing holding them back from filling more houses now is funding.

"[The landlord's] got more houses that he could give us," said Johnson. "It's just we can only do so much and from a logistical point of view, it's been a great demand on us."

The organization plans to slow things down and put its resources towards making sure the 20 women get the start they need.

"I am so grateful," said Nakyuyune. "I don't regret coming here." Top Stories

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