The atmosphere was festive and upbeat at the inauguration of the PRAIDA’s new offices on March 22. For employees, it was an opportunity to meet one another again—while taking proper precautions—and to celebrate their teamwork after months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers works within our CIUSSS to help asylum seekers and refugees. In recent months, the program had to organize a large-scale move when the previous premises reached the end of their lease.
That meant leaving the headquarters they’d occupied for the past three years on Saint-Denis Street in the Plateau Mont-Royal district and relocating to new offices in Ahuntsic-Cartierville.
Organizing a move in the midst of a pandemic was no easy task. “It was a challenge at first to find new offices, with the downturn in the real-estate market due to COVID-19,” Georges Bendavid, Director of Technical Services for CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, said at the inauguration.
The pandemic and the closing of international borders have had a major impact on the PRAIDA’s clientele, whose numbers dropped dramatically. But as soon as borders reopen, the PRAIDA expects volumes of asylum seekers to return to normal and even increase. “It was important for us to open our new offices before that happens,” says Marie-Eve Boulanger, Coordinator of PRAIDA.
There’s reason to be pleased. The PRAIDA’s bright new offices occupy the entire fifth floor of the building at 35 de Port-Royal Street East. “This will allow us to be more accessible to users who live in districts with high concentrations of asylum seekers, like Saint-Laurent, Parc-Extension and Montreal North,” says Ms. Boulanger.
The new office’s layout will also have a positive impact on the way the team works. In the former offices, it was sometimes difficult for new users to find their way around. The move was an opportunity to modernize the way staff streams users after their arrival. A new ticket system will allow employees to better direct clients depending on their needs.
As well, the new offices also have several infirmaries, a lounge, and rooms for interviews, breastfeeding and luggage storage. A lounge for non-accompanied minors was added, with children’s games, while PRAIDA staff handle their files.
Asked how she feels about the completion of the move, Ms. Boulanger struggles to find the words. “It was really a team effort and I want to thank everyone who made this project possible,” she says. “I hope to welcome new users to our beautiful new offices very soon.”