Online exchange hopes to connect Syrian refugees with housing, jobs

A new website launched Saturday aims to help connect Syrian refugees settling in Toronto with essential services and goods like housing, medical care and home furnishings.

'Matchmaker' website a space for Torontonians to offer up a wide range of services and goods

A new Canadian explores the first postings on the HOME website with her son at WoodGreen Community Services on the Danforth. (CBC)

A new website launched Saturday aims to help connect Syrian refugees settling in Toronto with essential services and goods like housing, medical care and home furnishings. 

The Housing Opportunities and Marketplace Exchange (HOME) was developed by WoodGreen Community Services in conjunction with the city's Refugee Resettlement Program and a number of corporate partners.

The online portal provides a space where people from across the GTA can post offers of all different kinds of donations, from available housing to family services to jobs to couches. 

"The biggest challenge we probably have in the city is all the people who want to help ... and those who need the help — putting them together." said Toronto Mayor John Tory, who was at WoodGreen's Danforth Avenue headquarters to greet some new Canadians and officially launch the website. 

"The city government does its best but technology these days is sometimes the best matchmaker."

Toronto Mayor John Tory attended the launch of the website Saturday where he greeted some new arrivals from around the world. He also posed for photos dressed in traditional Turkmen garb. (CBC)
Ward 21 St. Paul's Joe Mihevc echoed the mayor's comments, saying his office has been inundated with calls from people asking how they can help the resettlement effort. HOME finally offers an organized way to connect refugees with the things they need to live comfortably, he added.

To date, about 10,000 Syrian refugees have come to Canada, with another 15,000 due to arrive by the end of February. While exact numbers have not been released by the city, Tory has said previously that between 2,000 and 2,500 are expected to call Toronto home. 

According to Anne Babcock, president and CEO of WoodGreen, online services like HOME will be key to ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible.

"We are in a different age than when the last large wave of refugees came into Canada. We're in a plugged in and electronic age, and it's something that we have to put at the top of the list — which we never have had to do when we were settling people in the past."

Babcock added that many new Syrian arrivals are hoping to be connected with computers, whether they be older desktops or laptops.


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