Asylum seekers finding shelter in the Catholic Church
One month after a church opened its doors to asylum seekers, the archbishop of Montreal has officially welcomed refugee claimants to Notre Dame des Victoires.
The church on Lacordaire St. in the east end has been housing asylum seekers such as Soad Ali and her family for several weeks.
"It's so nice, they are all so kind to us," said Ali.
She is from Cairo, and has been living at Le Pont for the past month with her two young daughters, as have several other families.
They are waiting for refugee claims to be processed, and as they wait the church's staff, volunteers, and the claimants mingle.
"We cook to each other, no one alone. We are all together, eat together," said Ali.
At Thursday's inauguration Archbishop Christian Lepine said the diocese is doing what it can to help those who are living through a very uncertain time in their lives.
"We know that the challenges are numerous and big so it's about not solving every problem but doing our small part," said Lepine.
Alessandra Santopadre works for the diocese, and said the decision to help was easy.
"It's simple. We don't need nothing, just a place a safe place where these people can live with us for one month," said Santopadre. "We help them to finish their papers, we help them to find an apartment, to send the children at school, to live here a new life."
The number of people seeking asylum near the Lacolle border crossing has decreased from 250 per day in the summer to 50 per day.
Still those who work with newcomers and refugees, such as Paul Clarke, say the need for shelter is constant.
"There is a need to have a temporary place that's not so institutionalized but where people can feel like they're in a family, where they also can mingle maybe with civil society volunteers coming in to make the transition into life in Montreal," said Clarke.
About two dozen people are staying in the shelter while they search for another place to call home.