As told by Brian Jose, IAFR Canada Board Member
"It’s done, Brian. The funding is there.
When will it be available?”
I went silent. I had called Sandra Ryan, Global Mission Pastor at The Peoples Church, to ask advice on raising money for asylum claimant housing.
In less than 10 seconds, I had marching orders.
The Peoples Church had been given a grant and had been asking God for a “refugee-friendly landlord” — often the biggest barrier to getting started — and a suitable house outside the expensive Toronto urban concentration.
Sandra had done this before. She didn’t need to wonder if this was an answer to the prayers of many.
Four of us — two couples ‘of a certain age’ — had been kicking around ideas about converting our retirement fund (a rough and ready rental property for students in Peterborough) into a safe and comfortable first-stop housing space for refugee claimants. Between us we had experience, passion and a Biblical conviction that God’s people ought to be an active and intentional blessing to “the stranger in the land.” (Leviticus 19:33-34 and, well, all over the Bible.)
So, when God suddenly dropped the means in our laps, we kicked into action. This house had never been a palace and three years of renting to students had left its mark. Every room needed work.
Between our personal relationships, and volunteers drummed up by IAFR and The Peoples Church - some of them with lived refugee experience themselves - we gave the house a makeover: dozens of litres of filler and paint, refurbishing the kitchen, fitting out a new laundry area (which now doubles as the office), flooring, lighting, replastering a collapsed ceiling, landscaping and much, much more.
My knees haven’t recovered 11 months later. Just at the point where it all seemed completely overwhelming, a church sent a financial gift so we could hire some expertise. We did three months’ work in about 3 weeks.
Then came the first guests — 11 people (including two families) from three countries, in four bedrooms, with a shared kitchen.
Helen Reader, the Settlement Coordinator, eases the adjustments and helps residents navigate what can be bewildering hurdles.
As one recent guest shared,
“Selah House helps in so many ways, not only with the shelter, but with information and support on everything we need to do- from making an appointment for the New Canadians Centre, to making a doctor appointment for my son, as well as being safe in a home and everything supportive, including supplies for the house.
It makes me feel at peace while I wait for my refugee application to be approved. You make this difficult process easier for all of us."
Selah House is no longer the project of two couples and one church, though.
Local churches provide hospitality, advice, friendship, furnishings, and housewares for those moving out and setting up their own homes, Bible studies and language help. Because of the dynamics of home-based accommodation and the ethos of caring, Selah House gives stronger community and high-touch care for far less than half of the cost of refugee claimants housed in government-funded institutional settings.
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land... you shall love him as yourself."
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.