"Matthew House gives hope to the hopeless"
“I get a lot of satisfaction when I help a resident through the settlement process and they leave with a new job and a place to live.” - Doreen
Each month we share interviews and stories of people impacted by our work. Enjoy!
What is your name? Doreen
How did you hear about the program coordinator position at Matthew House Ottawa (MHO)?
When I arrived in Canada, I benefited from the goodwill of strangers. Through a friend’s connection, I was led to a pastor of an immigrant church, where people I did not know, received me, gave me a place to call home and a family to belong to. They provided me with all the support that a refugee would need. I was blown away by the kindness and how they made sure all my needs were met.
After I settled in, I was looking for a way to express my gratitude and pay it forward. My pastor encouraged me to consider volunteering with MHO. In March 2018, I started volunteering by helping the residents with settlement assistance. I really enjoyed it and I wanted to help as many people with this process as I could. During this time, the program coordinator position became available. I applied for the job and I was hired in December 2018.
What are some of your responsibilities as the program coordinator?
I’m responsible for taking care of the residents that live at the house. Normally, there are eight residents living at MHO at one time and they are at different stages in their settlement process.
When a refugee arrives at the house, I help them through the intake process. I explain how the program works and how it will enable them to fit in with their new family in Canada. I help them navigate the refugee claim process such as finding a lawyer, applying for legal aid and connecting to other social service providers in the community.
For the residents that are currently living in the house, they have different needs such as learning a new language, finding a job or recreational services as they adjust to their new life in Canada. We provide the guidance they need to settle in Canada as newcomers. For example, I will explain how they can find a bus route or guide them on how to find a job or a doctor.
For the residents that are in the final phase of their stay, they are mainly looking for their next home. I help find housing and book an appointment at the Furniture Bank for the residents. I will go to the Furniture Bank with them to help find the furniture they need for their new home.
Most of the support and work I provide is needed when a resident first comes to MHO and decreases as they get closer to moving out. It is a success story if a resident moves out of MHO in three months having found a job and a place to live. I work with a team of committed volunteers to help everyone with their specific needs.
What motivates you to be in this kind of position?
I get a lot of satisfaction when I help a resident go through the settlement process and they leave with a new job and their own place to live. There is a big change that a resident goes through from when they first come to MHO. At the beginning, they are unsure and stressed out. But with time, the residents start to open up and feel more comfortable. Many times when I see a former resident after they have adjusted into their new home and job, they are a totally different person. I really like to see all these changes.
What contributions or achievements are you most proud of as the program coordinator?
I believe I have really made a difference in the length of time it takes a resident to transition out of MHO. When I first started volunteering, I noticed the residents were staying for six to nine months. When I was hired as the program coordinator, the length of stay started to decrease to four months with the residents I helped. Since then, I haven’t seen a resident stay longer than three months.
I believe the reason for this change is that with my colleagues and volunteers, I set expectations with the residents. We help them understand they are at MHO in transition to their own home. We encourage them to see that the sooner they get their own home, the sooner they will become independent and their new life in Canada will begin. We inspire them to see this reality and support them to find their new home.
We have progressed from helping about 18 people last year to be on target to serve more than 30 residents by the end of 2019. I feel that is a very significant contribution to MHO. The more clients we help, the more relevant our program is for refugee claimants.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Matthew House Ottawa does or provides?
MHO gives hope to the hopeless. Our clients are provided with a home, bed, food and most importantly a community to belong to after they have left their country, family and friends. At the dinner table, the residents share with each other like any other family would do. They can go downstairs and watch TV together. MHO gives you that sense of community that you left behind.
What are you thankful for?
I am passionate about people, social justice and human dignity. I’m thankful for finding a job that connects with my personal passion. Not all refugees who come to Canada have a place to live where they have dignity. I’m so grateful that I’m working at MHO where we give people dignity in a home.
By Barb Koppe. Interview has been edited for clarity.
Wanna help? Here is how you can change lives through Matthew House Ottawa:
Donate: $25 provides a bed, food, and settlement support for a refugee claimant for one day. Or you can you can furnish an entire home for $204.
Pray: for past, present and future residents and furniture bank clients
Since 2010, Matthew House Ottawa has housed hundreds of refugee claimants, and provided free, quality used furniture to about 5000 families in need. We have done this as a large, dedicated team of volunteers and a small handful of employees, with a lot of passion and commitment. We invite you to join us!