Syrian refugees shouldn't take priority over homeless, group says

As Canadians across the country are welcoming Syrian refugees to their new home, a Moncton man is warning people not to forget homeless people already living here.

Charles Burrell of Moncton says people need not forget Canada's homeless in rush to help refugees

Charles Burrell of The Humanity Project in Moncton said Canadians should not forget to help homeless people as communities prepare to welcome Syrian refugees. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

As Canadians across the country are welcoming Syrian refugees to their new home, a Moncton man is warning people not to forget homeless people already living here.

Charlie Burrell founded The Humanity Project in 2014 as a group to give comfort and housing to the poor.

Burrell said he understands the world is watching the Syrian refugee situation.

"We need to help these people and bring them here, but we also need to help our own and one shouldn't take precedence over the other," he said.

We aren't taking that same urgency with our own homeless.- Charles Burrell , The Humanity Project

​Burrell said policy makers and bureaucrats don't seem to have the same sense of urgency toward combating homelessness as they do toward giving Syrians a safe place to live.

"As quickly as we were able to jump on this situation to help people in another country, we aren't taking that same urgency with our own homeless," he said.

Burrell said the government jumped to help the refugees quickly — while homelessness and poverty have been problems for decades.

"I think that people are marked as racist or as bigots for saying lets help our own when really it's not like they don't want to help others, but they feel we should help our own as well," he said.

But Burrell says regardless of the cause everyone can contribute toward making change.

"Do you have a hat, mittens, book bag, you've got five minutes of time to come serve the people of your community, or to cook a meal? That's just as valuable as any dollar value," he said.

Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton are among 36 communities in Canada on the list to receive 25,000 people fleeing war-torn Syria.

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