The first need for refugees arriving in Toronto, who would otherwise be homeless, is for safe and appropriate shelter. Our goal is to restore dignity by providing a warm, welcoming environment in a home-like setting. Upon arrival, residents receive a Welcome Kit that includes toiletries and other basic items and will find a bed made with clean linens waiting for them. Some need to be outfitted with clothing, especially warm jackets and boots in colder weather.
Once residents have been able to find their own accommodation, they receive help from our Move Coordinator and the Matthew House van to move into their new place, outfitted with basic furniture and household items from our store of donations.
Refugees arriving at Matthew House have been through a long, harrowing journey, many having faced persecution, danger, violence, and uncertainty. Our staff and volunteers are able to support our residents to heal and establish a new life in Canada. Sometimes we make referrals for trauma counseling. We also provide very important training to help them prepare for their refugee hearing, as well as other orientation classes that teach the basics of life in Canada like learning Canadian currency, using public transit, enrolling in schools, finding a place to live and cultural adaptation.
Refugees have left their homeland, families, friends and social structures and need to establish new connections in Canada. Often, the people they meet through their stay at Matthew House become like family, celebrating birthdays and other milestones together. We have several programs that help maintain these connections.
Matthew House Camp
Each summer, Matthew House staff, volunteers and residents spend a weekend at Camp Kwasind in Muskoka, relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, having new experiences, like swimming in a lake or roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and getting to know each other better. Our annual multicultural talent night has become a much-anticipated tradition!
We celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Matthew House each year on the first Tuesday evening in August at our main shelter on Dundas Street West. Many former residents return to the house, joining our staff, volunteers, and supporters for a multicultural potluck dinner in the backyard.
A REPLICABLE MODEL
Since the opening of the first Matthew House shelter in 1998, our movement has expanded to a network of homes offering refugees a warm welcome, safe shelter and support at the end of their journey on the refugee highway. Our shelter model of welcoming the stranger has been replicated in Hamilton, Fort Erie, Cambridge, Windsor, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. Some of these shelters, while autonomous, also bear the name Matthew House.
Matthew House has provided organizational resources and staff have served as mentors to new groups establishing their own refugee shelter ministries. Over the years, our Executive Director Anne Woolger has served as a leader on national and international refugee networks, speaking at churches, conferences and with the media educating the public about the plight of refugees and advocating for justice. Our vision is to educate and inspire more Canadians to reach out to welcome refugees and to continue to expand our network to shelter more refugees that must now be turned away.