Ottawa

Refugees: Interactive map to show legitimate places to donate clothing

To prevent well-intentioned clothing donations for refugees from going into fraudulent bins, residents are being urged to use an interactive map to find the right drop-off locations.

Community groups get storage space for flood of clothing donated ahead of refugees arriving

About 400 fraudulent clothing donations boxes have been set up in Ottawa this summer, according to Coun. Rick Chiarelli. (Facebook)

To prevent well-intentioned clothing donations from going to fraudulent, for-profit groups, residents are being urged to use a new, interactive map of drop-off points to ensure clothing reaches incoming refugees and other Ottawa residents in need.

Coun. Rick Chiarelli said he has been frustrated in the past by misleading clothing donation boxes, and a bylaw review will take place in time for the arrival of refugees from Syria. He is now working to direct donations to charities in Ottawa that are experts at clothing collection, including St. Vincent de Paul, Ottawa Neighbourhood Services and the Salvation Army.

The first four refugees destined for Ottawa on a flight organized by the federal government were to arrive in Toronto Tuesday afternoon. They are expected to be followed by many more.

"But the clothing is rushing in much faster and will become a bit of an avalanche over the next few weeks," said Chiarelli, who also announced that a central space has been donated to store the excess clothing for when more refugees arrive.

The head of the umbrella group Refugee 613 said she's thrilled local charities are taking on the collection of clothing for refugees because her organization and settlement agencies aren't set up to receive donated goods.

"The public is killing us with kindness right now," said Louisa Taylor, who described having a logistical challenge because many good-hearted people are collecting clothes for refugees and contacting her group.

Instead, she wants residents to use the map locator tool — not call Refugee 613 or settlement agencies. 

"We need folks to connect directly with the charities that are in this business, and know how to make sure the donations get to the right place," she said.

Student group to welcome refugees grows quickly

Dozens of students from a new non-profit organization called Capital Welcomes are expected to help sort clothing at the ​storage location. They also hope to create a buddy system to help government-sponsored refugees adjust to life in Canada, including learning to find a job and use OC Transpo.

University of Ottawa students Sarah Abood, Soumaya Ben Ali and Jess Touhey have created a non-profit organization called Capital Welcomes with the goal to help government-sponsored refugees feel at home in Canada. (Kate Porter/CBC)

University of Ottawa student Sarah Abood created a Facebook page in mid-November to organize friends who might help her eventually welcome refugees at the airport. Within a few hours, her Facebook page had 500 likes. Within a week, Abood and her friends Soumaya Ben Ali, whose parents were refugees, and Jess Touhey had become an incorporated not-for-profit organization with larger goals.

At their first event at their university, they had 200 volunteers sign on to help, and collected about 4,000 articles of clothing and household items, which Abood put in her parents' garage and basement, to her mother's surprise.

"She's being really cool about it now, but thankfully, Coun. Chiarelli got us a storage space," said Abood, adding Capital Welcomes will hold a sorting event this weekend.

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