The city has developed a one-time Grande Prairie welcome package for newcomers with refugee work permits and student visa status. The initiative is part of its $100,000 support for Ukrainian refugees.
The package will include a five-punch recreation pass, a three-month transit pass and some relevant resources.
“Administration felt that at this time that it would be wise to be inclusive and equitable, to include other refugees that are coming through different channels in order to provide services to all that fall under the same qualifications,” said Angela Sutherland, city community social development manager.
She noted that 10 families and 30 individuals have accessed the program to date.
On June 27, the local Rotary Club asked the city for assistance in its efforts to aid Ukrainian refugees coming to the South Peace.
Joel Park, Rotary Club of Grande Prairie Ukrainian relief committee chair, explained that many Ukrainians arriving in Canada have not much more than the clothes on their back.
Approximately 53 people have arrived In Grande Prairie from the Ukraine; another 34 are expected in the coming months, said Sutherland.
The city says it has worked with Park and the Rotary Club in finding resources to help the refugees in the area.
Sutherland said the Council for Lifelong Learning had responded quickly by offering free ESL classes, which filled up fast.
She noted additional classes might be added as the organization is looking for other grants to help cover the costs.
City coun. Wendy Bosch said she is concerned about the availability of ESL courses as the cost is too high for many newcomers.
Sutherland noted administration was aware of the time sensitivity of the issue and that it would follow up with the centre on its grant search.
The welcome package was originally presented to city council with a one-month transit pass but coun. Dylan Bressey suggested it be changed to three months.
He hoped the passes would give individuals enough time to find a job and get their first pay cheque.
The city has also worked with the Salvation Army and Grande Prairie Alliance Church, ensuring food hampers are available to Ukrainian refugees without presenting the typical documentation requirements.
The federal government currently provides a one-time payment of $3,000 per adult and $1,500 for children under 17 to Ukrainian refugees.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News