Matthew House pleading for donations after most air conditioners break during heat wave

It's another level of stress in the already overwhelming process of seeking documentation to stay in Canada: The air conditioning units at Matthew House, the region's home for people claiming refugee status, have quit.

It's bad timing, to say the least, as the region is in day two of a heatwave with temperatures rising as high as 35 C over the coming days. Residents and staff are hoping donations will come in to help.

Simon Phebe is one of the residents at Matthew House.

"Health-wise I'm OK, but because of the heat, it's very hard here," Phebe said through translator Luvabamo Bamoka.

"There is no AC, we are really struggling here … both day and night it's very hot here.

"It's adding to the stress of getting (Canadian) documentation."

Mike Morency, the home's executive director, says three of the home's four air conditioning units, all 25 years old, have quit, and at least one will need to be replaced entirely.

They have about 35 people in the north and south wings of the home — including seniors, pregnant people and children— who are all without AC.

Matthew House provides emergency shelter and settlement support to refugee claimants and asylum seekers who have not yet had a hearing, and therefore aren't eligible for government settlement assistance.

The house itself is 100 per cent donor funded.

Luvabamo Bamoka is a shelter coordinator with Matthew House. He says he hopes donations come through to help residents through the heat wave, as the home's AC units are broken.
Luvabamo Bamoka is a shelter co-ordinator with Matthew House. He says he hopes donations come through to help residents through the heat wave, as the home's AC units are broken. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"We become home and family for them. Unfortunately, this family's home is presently without air conditioning in a major heat wave," Morency said.

It's the shared living spaces like living, dining room and kitchen that are without AC. When there's 15 or more people in the space in the evening — cooking and spending time with each other — the heat quickly becomes unbearable, Morency said.

"We have serviced and done everything we can to extend their life. It's just really bad timing that they died right at the beginning of summer and when we're facing our first heat wave of the year when there's this extreme heat warning in place," Morency said. "So it really does put people at risk."

It'll cost about $40,000 to replace the four air conditioning units.

Right now, they're looking for short-term help: sleeve and portable air conditioners and fans. But they also need to replace the units, and are hoping for cash donations.

"I tell people everything you see ...taste, experience has either been purchased with donor dollars or donated by generous people in our community," he said.

"Matthew House wouldn't exist without the incredible men and women in our community who see the importance of having refugee claimants received a safe, welcoming first home in Canada and the supports to very quickly become self-sufficient members of our community."

Bamoka is the shelter co-ordinator for Matthew House. Through his position, he spends the majority of his days there and is experiencing the heat, as well as seeing how it impacts the residents.

"I can only urge those who are listening to come to our rescue we are in need," he said.

"I feel what they are feeling on top of the stress they are going through to feel this stress beyond their control its not easy."