It began with a building – a 67-suite apartment block on the western edge of Winnipeg’s Exchange District – created to house a wave of boat people and refugees from Southeast Asia.
IRCOM House opened with a rush of excitement and high expectations, struggled through years of under-funding, and then underwent a re-birth. In that process, a unique and potent model for assisting newcomers has emerged – one that offers inspiration to a province which has staked its future prosperity on its ability to successfully integrate newcomers into its mosaic.
For many years, IRCOM continued to grow, strengthen and expand its unique settlement model, combining secure housing with onsite services. As an organization, it went from three staff, two being part-time, in 1991 to a team of close more than 80 in 2019. The growth of the staff team reflects the increase in programming, quality of service, and availability of supports offered to tenants and the community.
In 2012 IRCOM was approached to open a second location on the corner of Ross and Isabel. After many years of construction and a flurry of transition plans, IRCOM officially opened the doors of its new building in August of 2016.
The transition onto this second building marked another sort of transition as well. Whereas IRCOM Ellen is primarily surrounded by businesses, IRCOM Isabel is in the heart of a residential neighbourhood, surrounded by a strong Indigenous community. In moving into the new building, IRCOM has been learning a lot from these new neighbours, and has come to understand the role that newcomers and newcomer-serving organizations can and should play in the process of Reconciliation.
Looking ahead, IRCOM is excited to see how the Winnipeg community adapts to make room for more voices, including Indigenous and newcomer voices, as we shape the future of our multicultural city.