As Blessed Oscar Romero is being canonized this Sunday, October 14, we recognize that his legacy has spread far and wide from his home in El Salvador. For this reason, we are featuring local not-for-profit Romero House, whose name was inspired by this soon-to-be saint's heart for those in need.
Romero House is a haven for refugees in Toronto that provides housing, settlement and advocacy services. It started when a small group took over a refugee shelter threatened with closure, back in 1991. Twenty-seven years later, Romero House is a fixture in the city's West End – located at Bloor and Dundas Streets. Over the years, Romero House has welcomed several waves of refugees: from the Horn of Africa, from Eastern Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union, from Iran, Columbia and Mexico.
Romero House helps refugees in need. (Photo courtesy of Romero House)
On a day-to-day basis, Romero House serves as a bridge between shelters and long-term housing for refugees. Their programs include transitional housing and walk-in services, such as help accessing food banks, settlement assistance, legal aid, education, clothing and finding lawyers.
Their four houses are divided into 10 units where families can live until their refugee hearings – most of these families spend the first year of their new life in Canada living at Romero House. Staff members provide a variety of programs for families, including a Kids' Club and Women's Group, retreats throughout the year, and a summer camp.
One of the non-profit's most unique features is that their staff live in their houses, alongside the newcomers. The organization's origin story asserts that "at the heart of Romero House is a fundamental decision to say 'I trust you' by choosing not to lock our internal doors."
Their current structure exemplifies a heart of service. Much of the work at Romero House is done by a team of interns, who choose to spend a year living in community, assisting the residents.
Before his assassination in 1980, Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador, spoke out against injustice, poverty and torture. According to the organization's website: "He exemplified the hope for faith and justice, and the inclusivity that Romero House was to embody."
For more information on Romero House, please visit www.romerohouse.org. To follow the pilgrims from Romero House throughout their pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization,visit www.twitter.com/house_romero or https://www.instagram.com/torontoromerohouse/. The canonization ceremony will be broadcast on Salt and Light Television this Sunday, October 14 at 9:30 a.m. As well, Romero House will be hosting a viewing of the canonization at the same date and time at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School located at 1515 Bloor St. W. All are welcome.