I’m not surprised that some people have reportedly been unable to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.
It’s a big commitment that requires an extensive framework of community support. Also, Ireland is new to welcoming refugees into people’s homes without the infrastructure in place to facilitate the process.
No wonder there were some hiccups. Hopefully, headlines saying some refugees have been returned to Citywest’s makeshift reception center won’t stop others from being kind enough to open their homes.
Anton Krasun, a Ukrainian-born Irish national who has helped Ukrainians come to Ireland, believes that receiving accommodation is the best option.
“If you look at the support that is in place, the hotel and the emergency shelters, (this) doesn’t help traumatized people adjust as well,” he said. “In Galway I know 200 Ukrainians in a hotel where the nearest shop is five miles away. They have security, but in our experience they would be better off psychologically in a host family in order to get to a kind of normality more quickly.”
The tech entrepreneur says a network will make it easier to get refugees living in Irish households into jobs, but that most will return Ukraine if possible.
“We just placed a dental assistant in Merrion Square, two legal jobs, one IT job. These have come from people-to-people support and not just living in one place,” he said.
“Sometimes, of course, the matching doesn’t work. Ideally, the hosting system is about helping people while they’re here and helping those who stay to find a job and rent an apartment.
“My mother-in-law returned to Ukraine with her two dogs after just two weeks in Ireland. She didn’t want to leave her husband.
In our experience, 80 percent want to go back.
“Another family I help live in Wexford in a shared flat. They just got a new house in Kyiv and as soon as the situation in Ukraine normalizes, they want to go back.”
Whatever the future holds, we are where we are and he says solid community support is essential.
Anton and Angie Gough, who has two families in Dublin with her husband, have set up www.helpingirishhosts.com. Anton is also involved in setting up www.pryvit.ie through which companies can offer help.
There are no official figures on hosting numbers, but by the end of March 16,891 people had traveled to Ireland from Ukraine.
We can expect larger numbers to come here as the crisis progresses and hopefully large numbers will be placed with Irish families.
Already 20,000 have signed up to host with the Irish Red Cross so Angie and Anton’s website will be very welcome.
I know four host families in my neighborhood. It’s been a positive experience for both parties – but everyone says it would have been a lot harder without the help they’ve received from the community.
I have great admiration for what they do.
Our house is tiny: a bathroom between six, so I’m out of the question. But to be honest I don’t think I would be generous enough to open up my house even if I had free living space.
It’s more than a financial commitment. They offer time and emotional range; You are sacrificing your family’s privacy, which may bother you.
I hope there are people taller than me, because if I were fleeing a war zone with my kids in tow, my instinct would be that living in a house with a family would be more comfortable than a hotel or shared apartment .
As Anton points out, there will always be instances when family and host don’t mix. After all, people are people.
When you think about it, even best friends living together can be a disaster. Small things can become bigger. A spoiled, noisy Chihuahua once ruined a family vacation for me.
But the chances of things going well are increased 100x when there is a strong support network and no host feels like they are flying alone.
Hosting was kind of contagious in my area.
It took an incredibly positive experience to persuade others to take the plunge – and the strong WhatsApp support network, always ready to offer information on everything from shopping to pyjamas, helped with that.
A cohesive network also means that Ukrainians staying in the region can connect with each other.
Without this support it would be more difficult financially and psychologically. And on that question, should we offer financial help to hosts? I think we have to.
Yesterday in a video link to the Dáil as the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Ireland for its humanitarian support and for caring for the Ukrainian people
who have found refuge here, I felt proud but also guilty because I have done very little so far.
It also made me uneasy – in that sense I want to help Ukrainians, but how many times have I helped people in Ireland who are in need?
I have to think about this, but today there is an urgent emergency – so what can I do?
Well, I could invite the Ukrainian boy across the street to play and his mom to coffee.
I could whip up a lasagna for the host family across the street today. A small gesture, but one that says, “I realize you have a lot to deal with.” I could stop by periodically to see if they need anything, even just a chat.
On Monday, the integration secretary said the government would try to secure Citywest for a long period of time – so if someone isn’t already housed in your neighborhood, there probably will be soon.
Not everyone is able to offer financial aid, but helping those who are willing to open their homes to make them feel supported and make the people who get there feel welcome often costs nothing.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/we-cant-all-take-in-a-ukrainian-family-but-we-can-certainly-reach-out-to-those-who-do-41528115.html We cannot accommodate all Ukrainian families, but we can certainly reach out to those who do