By Sandeep Kaur
BELLEVILLE – Loyalist international students are using a group on social media to find a place to live at an affordable price in the Quinte region.
Manmehar Singh Sidhu is a Loyalist graduate who created a What’s App group in 2021 to help students find housing more quickly in the face of a local housing shortage. The group also helps students find part-time jobs.
“I found that people are having difficulty finding housing,” Sidhu said, adding that getting part-time work can also be challenging.
He administers the group by himself, and he says are 500 students in it.
When he landed in Belleville four years ago, a few international students were there. He had a tough time getting home. His worst experience was in the winter of 2019.
“I lived in a single small room with four other people,” Sidhu said. “(Finally,) I found a good condition room in the middle of winter with someone’s recommendations by walking down the street.”
He said he started this group because many students are moving to Belleville, and this group is helpful for newcomers.
The What’s App group is private to prevent scams.
“If I saw something like this, I delete the contact and block them from the group,” he said.
Aayesha Shaik, a first-year student biotechnology student at Loyalist, uses the group.
“It was a big challenge for me to find accommodation in Belleville before joining this group, ’’ she said.
Before joining this group, she said she faced many difficulties in finding accommodation.
After a few days of looking, she contacted someone who suggested she join the WhatsApp group.
That eventually led to her finding a good and cheap room in Belleville.
Shaik said people are beneficial and supportive in this group. She says she is usually nervous about talking to people. But when she joined this group, she found fellow Gujaratis who were more than willing to help her. She is from Gujarat province in India.
“The admin of this group helped me a lot to find a room,” Shaik said. “He gave me lots of information about Belleville.”
That information included how far away it is from college to home and how to cooperate with other roommates.
Currently, she lives with four young women in a house in the east end of Belleville. She says the roommates help each other a lot, and she is now pleased here.
“I am ready to help newcomers whenever they need help.”
Amanpreet Kaur, a second-year General Arts and Science student, also uses the app.
“My worst experience was finding room in Belleville, “she said. “When I first came to Canada, I lived with 15 girls in a small house. There is only one bathroom and one kitchen for 15 girls, which was a big issue. Every time, we had problems making food and having a shower. “
Sometimes, she went from home without eating, Kaur said. It was a waste of time waiting for a turn to make food. Many times, she ended up eating fast food.
“That’s why most of the time I eat fast food; it affects my health, and I feel very weak,” she said.
Then, she discovered the app. She joined and initially thought it was a scam. Then, she found there were many rooms. She could find a private room so she could live on her own.
Sidhu offers the service for free. He continues to administer the app. He is currently a truck driver.