In conversation with Rev. Scott Jones

Q. What do you do?

I oversee all the vision, strategy, staff and programming at our transitional facility.

In the loosest terms, our strategy is to expand and help as many newly-arrived refugee claimants as we can. We know there's a need. … This year we welcomed about 90 people (at Micah House), mostly from across Central and South America, but also Sudan, Syria and the Middle East. They are arriving on their own, either flying in, or coming over the border from the U.S.

Most of the traffic we get is through word of mouth. We do get calls (referrals) at times from the Canada Border Services Agency, and from the Red Cross in Toronto. But about half our calls come directly from the refugees — they've heard of us through friends and family.

Our program is primarily to provide short-term housing (about two to three months) and to prepare people for their refugee hearing.

Q. What is your favourite thing about your role at Micah House?

Our guests, people from all over the world, are eager to befriend me and the rest of the staff. It's beautiful and humbling.

(Before they meet us) they are a little bit wary of the people they met on their travels. They don't know who they can trust and if they are safe. It usually takes them about two to three days to feel they can trust us. It's almost a physical reaction, you can see them relax. … They start to see that you're here for their benefit. (Then) the people are very expressive. They say how much they appreciate us and that this is the first place they can trust.

Hearing people say that this is a haven for them, an oasis. … I find it humbling.

Q. What do you like about Hamilton and why?

(There's) a kind of kinship here that people on the outside don't understand.

It feels like Hamilton is an underdog. For some it's only about factories still, blue collar work. But people are starting to find that it's a good place to invest, to settle. The city has great vision: to be the best place to raise a family. People outside of the city probably doubt that, but they're missing out.

(Also) Hamilton retains a feeling of smallness that I like.

Q. What do you think is the city's greatest asset and why?

There is a lot of creative energy happening here. … I see festivals popping up all the time. There's something going on all the time, and it's picking up momentum. Like Art Crawl and things that are really innovative.

There are startups, like in the coffee culture, that the community wants to support and get behind. And there are a lot of collaboration hubs where creativity is important and fun. Those are high-energy places, as well. This energy manifests itself in out-of-the-box entertainment, housing, dining and social justice options, as well as others, I'm sure.

Q. If Micah House could accomplish one thing in 2018, what would it be?

We would multiply our resources in order to increase the number of refugee claimants we can serve. I'd like more beds and another residence. We'd need more staff. The (problem for us) is we get no real federal money.

(Also) I'd like to see the community become more aware of us — so that we can experience, and together embrace, the refugee community that is arriving here.

cfragomeni@thespec.com

905-526-3392 | @CarmatTheSpec

Leave a Reply