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April 17, 2019

A warm welcome for Canadian newcomers

‘’What I do for work is no coincidence,” says Mazen Houdeib. “I was raised to help others and get involved. It was passed down to me by my family and is part of my heritage.”

Mazen is the general manager of ROMEL, a community group in Montréal that helps Canadian newcomers access housing. Mazen came to Canada from Lebanon in 1990. He was in search of new perspectives and challenges. It wasn’t long before he found ROMEL and became a volunteer.

“It was a way to integrate into my new community and contribute as a responsible citizen,” he says.

Several years later, Mazen became president of the board and eventually moved to his current position on staff. At this point, he has dedicated 19 years of his life to helping newcomers in Montréal. But while safe, healthy and affordable housing is an important first step, it doesn’t end there.

“I began to think about how we could get around the hurdles of integration,” he says.

One such hurdle, for example, is establishing a financial footprint in Canada. So Mazen and his team connect newcomers with the resources and information they need to set up bank and hydro accounts.

Mazen’s latest project will take this support a step further. Premiere Porte has been 2 decades in the making. The housing development will accommodate 78 families and individuals, including many newcomers. The project breaks ground this spring.

In partnership with ROMEL, the facility will provide newcomers with a wide range of integration supports and resources. It will offer help with issues like securing employment and accessing public services.

Mazen’s peers and community have recognized his patience and perseverance in bringing the project to life. He has already received numerous awards and certificates.

Still, there are no signs he’s slowing down, and his motivations remain clear.

‘’In order to make a difference, you have to be sincerely interested in what you’re doing and have the mission at heart,” he says.

Premiere Porte is funded by the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, a National Housing Strategy (NHS) initiative. It is also funded by the Société de Gestion Querbes.