We at Romero House are witnessing the Toronto housing crisis through the eyes of some of the most vulnerable people in this country—refugee claimant families. Refugee claimants fleeing persecution show up at our door everyday looking for support in a variety of forms, including emergency shelter. When Romero House is full, which is often the case, we look elsewhere for beds. However, during the fall it was becoming increasingly difficult to find spaces. In fact, at certain points, it became impossible. This is no longer a difficult situation, it is a crisis. And this is true of all forms of housing and shelter—refugee shelters, homeless shelters, transitional housing, subsidized housing and affordable rental units. This is creating huge challenges for many people throughout Toronto and surrounding areas but we see it especially for refugees whom we live and work with.
Although long-term solutions will only result from meaningful structural change, this will take time. There is an urgent need to respond now. What we need immediately is more beds and safe spaces for those at risk of homelessness – including families and children – and more alternative housing options. This must happen as we continue to work for more accessible and affordable housing for all. This is what led us to imagine the Romero House’s Neighbourhood Housing Initiative. It is our way of responding to the clear call for action that we are being presented with and we believe that the act of opening your homes, hearts and lives to refugees can be a beautiful and life-giving experience and we would like to facilitate this opportunity for all those who believe this might be possible for them.
How you can help:
This project is essentially the mobilization of a dispersed community of hospitality. It is an opportunity for people to respond to the obvious and serious need for housing by opening up a room in their house or an apartment of which they are a landlord to host a family or individual who is seeking refugee status in Canada. Romero House will create, update and administer a database of willing hosts. We will match families in need with hosts based on an assessment of needs and offerings and will offering ongoing support to hosts and guests.
Apply to host:
Email completed applications to firstname.lastname@example.org
A brief outline of how it will work:
- Willing hosts and landlords will contact Romero House by email (email@example.com) to request and application form;
- Romero House will send an electronic application form along with the documentation to request a vulnerable persons police check;
- Potential hosts that are determined to be suitable placements will be contacted for an initial in-person interview at Romero House. This will be an opportunity for both Romero House and the potential host to ask questions to determine if the placement should be pursued further;
- If both parties agree to move forward, someone from Romero House will make a site visit to the home to approve the placement;
- In the case that a match is made, a Romero House staff person will sit down with the host and the family and will have them sign an agreement setting out the expectations of all parties as to the arrangement;
- For longer term stays (beyond a week), or where deemed necessary, the host/guest will be assigned either an intern or a community companion to support them through the refugee process;
- Companions and hosts will be provided with a checklist from Romero House to ensure that responsibilities are made clear;
- Hosts will be provided with ongoing training re: the basic of the refugee process, confidentiality, diversity and sensitivity training.
If you are interested in learning more about this initiative please contact Romero House’s Housing Workers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at (416)763-1303. We are happy to answer any questions you have and to provide you with an application form to become a host.