The eSpirit Blog

The Beach Cares-Second Syrian Family Gets Settled

Four years ago Beach United Church joined with members of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church and others in the local community to create the Beach Cares as a sponsorship group for refugees from the civil war in Syria. Our first sponsored family, Safwan Bdiwi and Aisha Dilwati and their three daughters, arrived in July 2016 and became independent of our sponsorship about a year later. Some members of the group continue to provide support to the family to this day.

In July of this year, our second sponsorship effort supported Salim Darouich, Duaa Dubayn and their 3-year-old daughter, Selena, to come to Canada from Lebanon.  Immediately upon their arrival, they moved for a short time into a beautiful basement apartment in the home of a member of Beach United Church.  This gave them a solid foundation on which to begin to build their life here in Toronto.

The search for permanent accommodation gave the members of the Beach Cares a taste of the acute housing crisis in the City of Toronto, with high rents and scarce vacancies.  For newcomers with no credit history and no landlord references, the challenge was even greater.  After looking at a large number of apartments, Salim and Duaa were able to secure a spacious one bedroom apartment just north of Eglinton on Victoria Park. The location of the apartment is ideal, close to shopping as well as to the School where Salim and Duaa are now both learning to speak English.

We watch from a distance the tragic civil war in Syria and the plight of the more than 5 million refugees from that conflict as well as the people displaced by war and natural disasters in many other countries.  We are grateful to be able to respond in a very small way by providing a safe haven to these two families, thanks to the support of the volunteers in the Beach Cares and the financial and practical support of people from across the beach community.

We also acknowledge the ongoing work of the East End Refugee Committee, made up of people from 10 local churches, including Beach United; who have sponsored more than a dozen refugee families since their establishment in 1995 and continue to work quietly to respond to these needs.

-Paul Dowling, Animator, Ministry of Justice Seeking

Out of the Cold Moves to Beach United

Out of the Cold began with a surprise friendship and a tragic death. In the early winter of 1987, a group of high school students from St. Michael’s College became close with a local homeless man. After weeks of sharing food, clothing, and conversation, they learned one morning that the man had died.

The death of their friend profoundly impacted the students; so they turned to the school’s chaplain, Sister Susan Moran, for emotional support and guidance. Together, they decided something had to be done to address Toronto’s growing homeless population. Together with the help of Father John Murphy, they teamed up with Canon John Erb to transform an empty storefront on St. Clair West into the first Out of the Cold program.

Sister Susan started connecting with various faith groups across the City to discuss the opportunity of having each group organize volunteers at their Church or Synagogue to provide a safe refuge for people who are homeless. The plan was simply to open their doors one day a week for 23 weeks. They would also provide food and hospitality to homeless men and women, who are considered to be guests of the program.

Although the program initially opened with one faith group, the idea quickly caught on, and in 2018/19 the much-needed service will be offered in 18 different locations across Toronto. Since 2003, Dixon Hall has been contracted by the City of Toronto to provide coordination and support to the Out of the Cold programs.

Since 2006 St Aidan’s Anglican Church on Queen Street in the Beach has been one of the Out of the Cold locations, providing meals and overnight accommodation for about 25 people every Monday night. Volunteers come from across the community, including a number of members of Beach United Church.

As St. Aidan’s prepares for major renovations, now expected to start early in 2019, Beach United has agreed to host their Out of the Cold Program for a couple of years. In anticipation of the coming move, Beach United hosted a smaller pilot project last winter, with a larger cohort of BUC members as volunteers.

This year’s Out of the Cold Program at Beach United will run from November 5 to April 22. To accommodate the 25 homeless people who will sleep overnight, as well as the approximately 60 people who come for dinner every Monday evening, the Out of the Cold program will take over the entire church.

It is expected that many of the volunteers that have supported the program over the past 12 years at St. Aidan’s will continue to support the program during its time at Beach United. Gaps that need to be filled will be offered to those from Beach United who volunteered in the Pilot Project last winter.

We lament the continued crisis of homelessness that makes it necessary to provide this form of shelter. At the same time, we are grateful that we have the resources in our church to be able to respond to the need.

-Paul Dowling, Animator, Ministry of Justice Seeking