Community helps international students find temporary homes in Cape Breton

·2 min read
Around 3,500 international students attend Cape Breton University. Finding a place for them to stay is challenging. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC - image credit)
Around 3,500 international students attend Cape Breton University. Finding a place for them to stay is challenging. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC - image credit)

Thanks to a Facebook post in late August, people in Cape Breton have been stepping up to help new international students at Cape Breton University in Sydney, N.S., find free temporary housing while they look for a permanent place to live.

Nova Scotia has seen an increase in people unable to access housing in recent years, but many international students coming to the province aren't aware of the severity of the issue.

Some of the roughly 3,500 international students who attend Cape Breton University don't have a place to live upon arrival in the province.

In late August, CBU graduate Ajay Balyan wrote a post on the Facebook group CB International Community to offer new students a drive from the airport upon arrival in Cape Breton.

The owner of a restaurant in Sydney who came to Cape Breton in 2017 is also offering temporary housing.

"I have like 77 or 78 [people contacting me] and, because most of the students will be coming in the first week of September, I'll be getting more messages," said Balyan.

He said current students have been a huge help in finding homes for new students.

"So far, we have more than 50 students already who are ready to give them a permanent stay or a temporary stay as well," he said.

Balyan said the newcomers are sharing rooms with international students and locals in the area. "They're just trying to squeeze into a big house," he said.

Those efforts have made going to university possible for people like Shivam Dubey, a 24-year-old from India who's studying business at CBU this semester.

He was picked up at the airport and given a place to stay by Balyan.

"It's very hard for newcomers to find out there's no place to live," Dubey said. "So I thought I'd have to live in a hotel for maybe two or three weeks and it's very expensive for me to live there.... But the guy named Ajay, he helped me."

Dubey was able to find a permanent home this week, but said he knows "it's very difficult for everybody." He said he was grateful for the help he received.

Balyan said the housing issue in Cape Breton needs to be addressed if people are going to remain in the area after attending CBU.

He added his restaurant is also offering a free meal to international students new to Cape Breton.

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