“It’s not easy to find space for everyone who needs it. Fortunately, solidarity and community spirit are incredible forces.”
Raymond Simard, CHCM Consultant
A welcome that makes all the difference
Algerian-born Katia Kaci first set foot in Winnipeg, a city she had been longing to see, in 2015. During that exploratory visit, she stayed nine days at Abri Marguerite, a mission run by Accueil francophone, which has offered transitional furnished housing to newcomers since 2008. Katia was immediately impressed with the exceptional hospitality.
“Abri Marguerite was definitely where I wanted to stay. I couldn’t believe everything this housing alternative had to offer, including bedding, furniture, utensils and Wi-Fi. It’s really ideal for a family, both in terms of value for money and location,” she says.
With its location at the heart of St. Boniface, close to several community organizations, Abri Marguerite gave Katia Kaci and her family the opportunity to acclimate to a Francophone environment. “It was reassuring to be in an environment where we could speak French,” she says. “And my children’s French school was very close. It was perfect!”
Two years later, accompanied by her two boys, aged nine and seven, she packed her bags and moved permanently to Manitoba. She returned to Abri Marguerite for a month while she looked for her own place.
Now settled in an apartment in St. Boniface, Katia Kaci feels very fortunate to have experienced a welcome that far exceeded her expectations.
“I really value the time I spent at Abri Marguerite. I felt at home there. There’s so much to think of when you come from the other side of the world. You have to adjust and get things in order. It’s very stressful. This kind of housing support is comforting. You feel calm; a real inner peace,” she says.
“It is vital to open the community’s doors as much as possible,” says Raymond Simard, a consultant for the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba. “In 2016, thousands of Syrian immigrants and refugees came to Manitoba. To meet that extraordinary demand, we decided to use a collaborative approach to develop our reception services. We subsequently did our utmost to make more housing units available.”
With the additional cooperation of the Diocese of St. Boniface, housing was found for many refugees, and Abri Marguerite is now hoping to get another building to double the number of suites available for immigrants. “It’s not easy to find space for everyone who needs it. Fortunately, solidarity and community spirit are incredible forces,” says Simard.