They come to us from all corners of the globe.
Some are classified as children but they arrive alone, without parents. Often they have nothing but the clothes on their backs. No one is expecting them and no one welcomes them. Sometimes they are simply dumped on the streets of Toronto, left to fend for themselves. Even in the cold of winter.
Alone, afraid and very vulnerable
In recent years we have seen an alarming number of unaccompanied refugee youth arriving at our doors. These refugees, some as young as 16, have been forced by war, persecution, and threats to their lives to flee their homelands and leave their families behind.
Ten years ago, Matthew House opened a home near Dundas and Lansdowne Streets to welcome vulnerable refugees of all ages. Due to the sheer number of young people coming to us for help, it has evolved into a home exclusively for unaccompanied youth. Surprisingly there are no city-run shelters in Toronto specifically geared for refugee youth. Matthew House has been on the front line in responding to this vital need.
A warm and welcoming home
Our home is a very vibrant place. Youth from some of the harshest war zones in the world live together with volunteer house parents in an incredibly supportive community. They attend local high schools, hold part-time jobs and live much like Canadian teens, experiencing the joys and challenges of that stage.
If you ask any of them what it feels like to live at the home, they will say, “we are like a family.” They feel secure, valued and loved. They do not fear for their safety and can plan for the future. A number have gone on to graduate from university, becoming contributors to society. Currently, several former teen residents are enrolled in engineering and physics programs at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.
Sadly we have had to turn many youth away due to a lack of space. Newly arrived youth at our reception shelter await space in our longer-term home, but it is full. The need outweighs the supply. We simply have had no place to put them.
Now for the good news!
We are in partnership with C3 Toronto, a forward-thinking, community-minded church, who are committed to making a positive difference in the city.
This fall they have provided us with the use of a beautiful four-bedroom house just down the street from our current refugee youth home. It is a tremendous opportunity and cause for celebration as it enables us to do something about the lack of space for our youngest and most vulnerable refugees.
The new home will be modelled after our existing one. It will offer a supportive environment, complete with live-in house parents to provide guidance as residents adapt to life in Canada and complete high school. Most of all, it will provide a home, a family and a sense of belonging to refugee youth who have lost so much.
We invite you, our community, to join us in making this house a home.
Your generosity at Christmas time has always made it possible for Matthew House to provide compassionate support to newly arrived refugees.
This year, we have a special request: help us turn this house into a true home for unaccompanied refugee youth. There are many ways you can partner with us. We have listed some of our most important needs below.
Your gift will make such a difference. Thank you for caring for the most vulnerable among us.
Karen Francis and Anne Woolger
Executive Director and Founding Director