Tesfamariam stands in front of Trinity Manor. Tesfamariam, a refugee
from Eritrea, is looking for new housing after the department of
Citizenship and Immigration declined to renew funding for the Mennonite
Centre for Newcomers’ refugee housing program at Trinity Manor.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Tears flowed Saturday as previous and current clients of a program
that provided housing and services for refugees gathered for a send-off
ceremony after the federal government cut its funding.
On April 1,
the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers’ refugee housing program at
Trinity Manor, just north of downtown, will close. Trinity Manor will
continue to provide affordable housing for tenants, but without the
special services that were available on its premises.
department of Citizenship and Immigration decided in February not to
renew funding, leaving the centre short $124,000.
“I feel that we
have been treated almost like a piece of cardboard,” said Delmy
Garcia-Hoyt, the program’s co-ordinator. “You don’t do that if you truly
care about people in your community.”
About 40 people — clients,
former clients, staff and volunteers — gathered in the building basement
Saturday to celebrate the life of the program. The proceedings were
emotional charged, with some tenants becoming upset when they spoke
about the program’s impact on their lives.
“What I really like
about this program is not the building,” said Wegahta Tesfamariam, who
came to Canada a year and a half ago from Eritrea and lives in Trinity
Manor with her sister and father. “The apartment is not the attractive
thing. The best thing about this is the help of the office. They really
help us in developing our networks with each other. They also help us in
finding a job.”
“They do a lot of stuff for us.”
program provided 40 units of affordable housing at Trinity Manor on
101st Street along with a variety of social services to
government-sponsored refugees from places like Mauritania, Iraq,
Somalia, India and Peru.
Erick Ambtman, the Mennonite Centre’s
executive director, said Citizenship and Immigration withdrew funding
because the program emphasized housing first and foremost.
don’t do anything related to housing, and they felt that this was
becoming increasingly about housing,” Ambtman said. “They’re not big bad
guys or anything. They’ve made it pretty clear that their mandate is
not to fund housing projects.
“We applied for about $3.5 million
worth of programming, and they funded $3.2 million. They funded most of
what we asked for, with the exception of Trinity Manor.”
said the services the Trinity Manor office provided for the refugees,
some of whom struggle with English, will still be available from the
Mennonite Centre’s other offices around town. “It’s not as intense, but
the services are still around,” he said.
Garcia-Hoyt, who came to
Canada in 1984 with her family fleeing civil war in El Salvador, said
the tenants feel frustrated and upset. They presented the Mennonite
Centre with a petition when they heard of the funding withdrawal.
feel so hurt about what happened,” she said. “They feel the agency
hasn’t done enough, so they don’t want to go there and receive services.
tenants and the staff feel that Citizenship and Immigration and the
(Mennonite Centre) have not treated us as equals. We feel we have been
treated as a number in a bank account.”
Tesfamariam said she’ll stay in Trinity Manor, for now, but she expects most of the current residents to eventually move out.
“Almost everybody’s going to leave, I think,” she said.
“Most of the people were living here because of this office, the programs they provide.”