An organization that provides support to newcomers arriving in Edmonton is desperate for a new space and funding to continue its operations.
The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers says its refugee donation centre located on 82 Street at 117 Avenue is bursting at the seams.
The centre has long been used to provide language training to immigrants and newcomers. But now, many of the classrooms, closets and conference rooms are overflowing with donations as the centre’s limited staff try to sort, organize and disperse the items to newcomers who arrive in the city with nothing.
“They have access to everything. I leave them to pick and choose what they want,” settlement practitioner Dalia Abdellatif said.
“Most of the people are coming for kitchen items, because this is the first thing they want in their house, so they can cook for their children.”
As Edmonton continues to welcome newcomers from Ukraine and other parts of the world, EMCN is seeking a low- or no-cost space for a new coordinated donation centre. The centre hopes the new space could hold all of the donated items currently crowding up its other location.
“Our city needs a permanent home for donations intended for refugees, victims of emergencies, and others needing to make a fresh start,” said Megan Klein, executive director of EMCN.
“The Refugee Donation Centre in EMCN’s language classes building is just a bootstrap operation until a more permanent solution is established. We felt like we had to do something to fill the service vacuum left in our city when the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society was forced to close its doors back in August 2021.”
According to Klein, their current space is less than ideal as it was intended to be a learning centre. Instead, donated goods are left piling up at the back door as they don’t have the staff resources to get the items up to the second floor.
EMCN is also seeking additional funding to continue its operations, after its current funding ran out at the end of March. As more newcomers continue to arrive in Edmonton, the organization says it can no longer meet the needs of incoming refugees and immigrants without more financial support.
“There is a critical need for this service since refugees need all basic household items,” Klein said. “As refugees arrive in our city, they will have to dip into their very small resettlement allowance for these items. Arrivals of newcomers fleeing the crisis in Ukraine are not even provided a standard refugee allowance as they are not designated as refugees when arriving under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program.
“Without access to unrestricted supports like EMCN’s donation centre for refugees, many vulnerable families will simply go without basic necessities.”
EMCN is seeking funding from both the municipal and provincial governments in hopes of opening a New Start Essentials Market. Ideally located in northeast Edmonton, the market would offer wraparound services like food, employment, housing and family supports while also operating as a donation centre.
“We do need a space that has a shipping and receiving side so that we can bring in some goods, including some larger goods,” Klein said. “And a place that has easy access to transit.”
The goal would be to support newcomers and also be able to serve people affected by fires, floods and other emergencies, bridging the gap created when EERSS shuttered.
EMNC said it needs to find a new permanent home for the donation centre by this September, when teachers and students return to the building for on-site English classes and childcare.
– With files from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED