Appeal for donations for asylum seekers housed in Toronto churches

Click to play video: 'Volunteer groups helping asylum seekers appeal for donations and shelter space'
Volunteer groups helping asylum seekers appeal for donations and shelter space
WATCH: Two churches housing refugees who had been living on the street are approaching capacity. volunteers are appealing for clothing and toiletries. But with more people arriving daily, they say space is also needed. Matthew Bingley reports – Jul 21, 2023

It’s been a dramatic week for hundreds of refugees who had been forced to live on Toronto streets, but even after finding temporary shelter, there is a fresh appeal from those providing it for the many essentials needed to help start a new life.

Outside in the church parking lot, while boxes of donated goods were being dropped off, about 25 refugees who had been sleeping in the church basement carted their belongings onto a city bus bound for supportive housing. One man told Global News he was grateful for the support he had received so far.

The government support is a dramatic improvement over the conditions asylum seekers were subjected to for weeks: left outside on the street in front of a Toronto shelter intake centre while the city squabbled with upper levels of government to house refugees, admitting its existing shelter space was at capacity

But as fast as Toronto is transporting them to expanded shelter space, announced earlier in the week by Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford, more refugees are arriving at the church. Many of the volunteers assisting the efforts, like Pastor Judith James, have noted their efforts only have the resources to last on a temporary basis.

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The efforts, which have largely been spearheaded by Black-led organizations, are now calling on residents for donations.

“Toiletries are absolutely key, feminine products are absolutely key, we hope that we get lots of towels so people can take care of their bodies,” said Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, the head of the BlackNorth Initiative, saying there’s also a need for clothing — especially men’s trousers.

Several people touched by coverage of the asylum seekers arrived Friday afternoon with carloads of supplies they thought could help. Revivaltime Tabernacle’s Nakita Mclean said she’s been seeing many re-posts of the desired items shared widely on social media, prompting a visit from her and Jahrelle Johnson.

“We brought some larger bins, some hangers, pajamas, just the stuff that was on the list,” she said.

“I think people are doing what they need to do, especially in our community,” said Maclean, “a lot of people jumping on the opportunity, it’s great to see.”

While appealing for more support from the federal government, Mayor Chow said she was also hoping private citizens would lend a hand with shelter. Ahmed-Omer said so far about 15-20 families have stepped up to do just that, but she noted many Black Canadians are already living in homes that are over-capacity, so there’s only so much help they can provide.

“There’s two to three generations who live in the same home, they don’t have a lot of space, so it’s challenging for them to do that,” said Ahmed-Omer “But some amazing families have stepped up, to take as many refugees as they can.”

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The hope, she said, is that the federal government will do more to ensure the temporary measures she’s helping coordinate aren’t the sole source of support for the more than 300 people they’re currently housing — not to mention those who remain on city streets in front of Toronto’s shelter intake centre.

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