Grand Forks will not play host to a Syrian family after a plan from a group of residents fell through. Ben Jepsen, one of the main organizers along with Kerri Martens, said the group was running out of time and found the bureaucratic “red tape” daunting.
“Things just weren’t coming together for us. On one end we had the government and on the other one we couldn’t get every thing we needed on time,” said Jepsen. “Housing was a big one, especially with Syrian families—many are large with seven or eight. You would need a house and we just couldn’t seem to find a place for them to live here.”
Jepsen said the group met on April 5 and made the decision. “We had been trying to get all the stuff together in March. We basically kept hitting walls throughout the month on our end and just going back and forth with the government trying to figure out what meets the criteria. At one point they said they could send [a family] and another point they said Grand Forks wouldn’t be qualified to receive them. So we finally had enough of all the back and forth and not getting anywhere so we decided this would be the time to stop.”
The group raised approximately $7,500 and Jepsen said they plan to give that money to help with a Syrian family in a nearby community such as Castlegar. Jepsen said he would definitely be open to helping out any possible future efforts to bring in a Syrian family but wouldn’t want to spearhead it again.
“If everything lined up for sure,” he said. “We’ve been working on this since January trying to work at it, work at it, work at it. We eventually realized it wasn’t working and stepped back. If someone else wants to take the lead and step up, I’d be all in for helping. As for myself and Kerri, we’re stepping back.”
Jepsen said that overall the enterprise was well received by the community. “For the most part, we had a real positive feedback and support,” he said. “A lot of people were really excited about this venture and wanted in on it. I heard a lot of people saying they would donate more if they knew for sure a family was coming.”