Salvation Army has spent $100K supporting asylum seekers

Salvation Army has spent $100K supporting asylum seekers

In one month, Winnipeg's Salvation Army has spent $100,000 supporting the influx of asylum seekers coming into the province. 

Last month, the organization opened up 30 beds at the Booth Centre and 30 at their family shelter to temporarily house those who had crossed the border near Emerson and needed a place to stay.

Major Rob Kerr said last weekend they reached maximum capacity, accommodating 90 asylum seekers.

"At 90, we've realized as far as we can go without compromising any of our other services," he said, referencing the services provided to the city's homeless. 

"We're now predicting and expecting that our costs to do this are now rapidly reaching $100,000," said Kerr.

That's since their first claimants arrived Feb. 18. 

Since then, the centre has housed 120 claimants and served 4,000 meals, Kerr said. Other costs include providing welcome kits with toiletries, clothes and laundry services. 

On Thursday, 80 claimants were staying at the Salvation Army.

Since last April, more than 400 refugee claimants have crossed the U.S. border into Manitoba, according to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), coming predominantly from Somalia and Djibouti. Emerson officials are worried that could increase as the weather improves. 

"Obviously we don't want to turn anybody away, we don't want to see anybody on the street, but it's a very different situation for us now at 90 than it was at 30," he said.

"Our commitment for 30 people for two months was very manageable, it was something we could handle very easily ... At 90, it puts a little more pressure on it and of course we don't know when the end will be for this," he said. 

The Salvation Army will be rolling out a campaign with commercials and social-media posts asking people to support the asylum claimants specifically. Kerr said that's not something the Salvation Army normally does. 

"It's been a real learning experience for us, to go down this path of serving a specific segment of the population like this, as refugee claimants," he said. "Seeing them go through the process ... we've heard amazing stories. The fact that they risked their lives to get to Canada because they felt that that was a safer bet than being sent home to their home country."

They're also going to seek funding from provincial and federal officials, Kerr said. 

"Right now we've been funding this completely on our own," Kerr said. "So yes we are looking for someone else to come alongside and help us by funding this with some sustainable funding if we're going to continue doing this."