Edmonton (February 23, 2023) – Catholic Social Services (CSS) is making an urgent appeal to Albertans for help. With hundreds of Ukrainians arriving in central and northern Alberta each week, alongside an influx of refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Syria, the agency needs to raise at least $100,000 to help meet the increased demand for services.
“There have been few times in our agency’s history that we have been challenged like this. Global conflict and natural disasters have created mass migrations of people in desperate need of refuge,” says Dr. Troy Davies, CEO, Catholic Social Services. “CSS has a long and proud history of welcoming newcomers to our community, but we can’t do this work on our own.”
Since the war in Ukraine began, CSS has provided settlement supports to more than 2,500 Ukrainians, as well as 2,300 government assisted and privately sponsored refugees from other countries. Currently, CSS is receiving as many as 60 calls a day from Ukrainians who need help; upwards of 300 each week. As many as one third of these clients are recent arrivals in need of emergency accommodations. Many are arriving with few possessions and no access to funding supports.
“We are working closely with government and our partners to meet the needs of our clients, but the demand for services is enormous,” says Margaryta Marion, Director, CSS. “We have 25 government-funded spaces for temporary accommodation. But, we receive as many as 100 calls from Ukrainians each week with no place to stay and no funding for housing.”
Catholic Social Services first launched its Refugee Relief Fund in October 2021. The Fund was created in response to refugees arriving from Afghanistan and other countries. Between 2021 and 2022, CSS raised approximately $60,000 for the Fund. This helped purchase food, winter clothing, school supplies, technology for children in schools, and other essentials. In recent months, the Refugee Relief Fund has helped pay for temporary accommodations for Ukrainians, as well as food, transportation, and other urgent needs.
“Our Refugee Relief Fund has become a critical tool in our response to the Ukrainian resettlement crisis,” says Dr. Davies. “But as the demand for these funds remain high, the money we raised previously is running alarmingly low. Time and time again, Albertans have blessed us with their incredible generosity. The time has come for us to appeal to them once again. We need your help. We can’t do this alone.”
In January 2023, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reported a historic number of newcomers arrived in Canada in 2022; the largest ever in a single year. These numbers are projected to remain high.
CSS is a leading provider of immigration and settlement supports in Alberta, resettling all government assisted refugees who arrive in Edmonton and Red Deer, and providing settlement supports to as many as 10,000 newcomers each year.
In 2022, the IRCC asked CSS to coordinate the Ukrainian response for all of central and northern Alberta. This included streamlining and facilitating communication and service delivery between stakeholders, community members, and clients, as well as mobilizing a team of settlement support workers dedicated to responding to Ukrainian clients.
Donations to the Refugee Relief Fund can be made online at cssalberta.ca or by calling 780-439-HOPE(4673).