Romero House came to life in 1991 when a small group of people, including several refugee families, took over a refugee shelter threatened with closure. They had a unique idea: that newly arrived refugee families could live together with others seeking to be a community. They lived together in a spirit of trust, interacting as neighbours rather than clients and settlement workers. They had no plan, no sense of what their little experiment would become.
Over the past 30 years, Romero House has grown beyond what was ever imagined. Dive into the story of Romero House with some of our founders and long time community members.
What We Do
Romero House provides comprehensive support to refugee families who live in our houses and who come to our walk-in program. Some of our primary activities include:
Transitional Housing We offer transitional housing and wrap around support for one year to 10 newly arrived refugee families
Settlement Support We accompany families in accessing education, income assistance, employment, food security, and health care
Legal Support We offer support in navigating the refugee determination system and accessing quality legal representation
Food Security We work with local partners to provide weekly food hampers and care for our community garden
Community We offer regular programs for adults and children, including a whole lot of celebrations
Clothing We provide gently used seasonal clothing and various household items in the Romero House Boutique
Meet Our Team
In addition to our wonderful staff, Romero House is held up by six young people in the Worker program, who commit one or two years of their lives to living and serving in community. This team, together with a dedicated group of volunteers, continue to support and build the ever-growing community of Romero House
Francesca has been part of the Romero community for more than 15 years. She started as Executive Director in 2022, bringing experience in law, frontline social service work, and facilitation. She loves dancing and singing and is grateful that this community celebrates both.
Mary Jo Leddy
Renowned for her creative use of leftovers in making delicious meals, and her dedication to our neighborhood. She is a social activist, teacher, and writer, whose long term commitment to Romero House has formed the foundation of this community.
Our Assistant Director brings an extremely helpful enthusiasm for operational management and organization. She is our health and safety guru and knows far more about social media than anyone else on the team.
Our wonderful bookkeeper, is a bright light in our office, bringing with her a very welcome love of organizing our cluttered spaces.
Community Services Coordinator
Robbie is from Georgia and is taking on a new role at Romero House. He is an amazing guitar player and a great gym buddy. He is excited to continue to share his Georgian food recipes with the Romero community.
Our Buildings and Maintenance Manager Robelin brings amazing enthusiasm to Romero House while keeping our houses in great shape. He loves to make music, is a talented bachata dancer and a great cook!
Housing Access Coordinator
Karen is our Housing Access Coordinator and faithful volunteer of over 4 years! She’s no stranger to our community and brings contagious energy to everything she does. When she’s not helping people find their perfect home, you can find her enjoying extreme adventures, dancing, swimming, or jamming to music with family and friends.
We are welcoming Elaina back for her second year. She is from Grimsby, ON, and is an improv wiz and boxer extraordinaire! Elaina has enthusiastically stepped into the role of Housing Worker.
Sarah is returning for her second year. She is from Guelph, ON, and she loves music and ensures we all get a healthy dose of yummy kale salads! Sarah is our very organized volunteer coordinator and a great Companion.
Rafael joins us for his first year of being a Worker. Rafael is on the Companion Team and is our Food Security Coordinator. Rafael brings awesome tech skills, a superb enthusiasm for teamwork, and delicious empanadas to our team!
Marisol joins us from Parkhill, Ontario, bringing amazing spunk and energy to our team. Marisol is our community glue, organizing many fun outings and social events for our residents. They are on our Companion Team and have taken on the role of communications.
Suyeon comes from South Korea, she is a very dynamic person who has experienced many volunteer and community placements throughout the world. She is community programming coordinator. She plays ukulele and sings very well, she is very enthusiastic.
Moses is joining our team and comes all the way from Zambia. He is our intake coordinator and is very committed to his work. He plays the guitar and is a great swimmer. He speaks seven languages, and has amazing linguistic skills!
Meet Our Board of Directors
Lori Neale has twenty years of experience working in the non-profit sector.
Lori Neale has twenty years of experience working in the non-profit sector working for Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace,the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministries, CESBA,and The United Church of Canada. She has served on the board of the Catherine Donnelly Foundation as well as chaired the board of trustees of the Jesuit Volunteers Canada. She holds a Masters in Adult Education. She first became connected to Romero House as a live in volunteer and has been part of the extended Romero House community ever since. Currently serving as Chair of the Board since Fall 2019.
Jack Costello is a founding board member of Romero House. After 30 years, he continues to serve as chaplain and board member.
Jack Costello is a founding board member of Romero House. He joined the Order of the Jesuits in 1959 after starting his studies at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. After his philosophy studies, he taught in Jesuit high schools in Toronto, St John’s NFLD and Montreal.
He studied theology at Regis College in Toronto and was ordained in 1971. He received a PhD in philosophy from Uofr in 1979,while also editing Catholic New Times. Jack consulted for the Jesuits and Amnesty International Asia and Europe and taught at Gonzaga University in Spokane for five years before returning to Toronto to teach at Regis College (1988-2017). Heserved two terms as President of Regis College at the University of Toronto (1988-98,2011-15). During these years Jack was also Canadian director of Jesuit Refugee Service, and worked onthe team at Romero House, where he launched and directed the annual Summer Camp (1992-2017). He continues, after 30 years,to serve as chaplain and as a member the Romero HouseBoard of Directors.
Anil Varughese brings his lived experience as a former worker.
Anil Varughese brings his lived experience as a former worker at Romero House to his current role as the vice-president of the Board of Directors. He has served on the Board of a number of immigrant cultural organizations. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto,and is currently a faculty member at the School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University,Ottawa,Canada.
Martha Asselin is a non-profit consulting professional with M & M International Inc. She is a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability.
Martha Asselin is a non-profit consulting professional with M & M International Inc. Martha has consulted for Toyota Canada Inc. and Canadian Pacific Railway on a variety of complex multifaceted projects for almost twenty years. In addition,she has been involved in faith-based consulting and financial stewardship initiatives throughout Canada at the parish and diocesan levels. Most recently, Martha has been managing several parish roll-outs of combined campaigns in the Archdiocese of Toronto and working with para-church annual financial stewardship initiatives. This work has been expanded in the area of environmental stewardship over the past few years.
Martha has completed her Gift Planning Certification, with the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, and her Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Toronto. She is currently enrolled in her Masters of Theological Studies at University of Toronto and is a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability.
Sara Guerrero has over 20 years of experience in the accounting field.
Sara Guerrero has been working in the accounting field for more than 20 years and over 13 years in the Non-Profit Sector. She brings experience around payroll,human resources, investments,budgets,forecast,cash flow,and financial reporting to her role as Treasurer of the Board. She currently works as the Finance Manager at Jewish Immigration Aid Service (JIAS) Toronto. She held previous positions of Finance Manager at St. Jude’s Community Homes and Financial Reporting Analyst with Canadian Crossroads International. Sara came to Canada with her family as a refugee many years ago, and was a resident at Romero House.
Amensisa Neway has over seventeen years of experience working for international development organizations in Ethiopia and Sudan.
Amensisa Neway was born and raised in Ethiopia, the horn of Africa. He has more than seventeen years of experience working for international development organizations in Ethiopia and Sudan taking on several roles such as a finance officer, internal auditor and program accountant. Child Fund International, Concern Worldwide, and the Embassy of the United States in Ethiopia are just a few of the places he worked at before becoming an Accountant at Environmental Defence Canada. Amensisa enjoys being part of a team that makes a difference in the lives of people.
Amensisa came to Canada in the year 2017 as a refugee and stayed for one year at Romero house with his wife and two children. Before joining the board in 2021, Amensisa volunteered preparing donation tax receipts and serving on the worker recruitment committee.
Kathy Butkovich has over 20 years of teaching experience and selfless volunteer.
Kathy Butkovich studied education at the University of Toronto. She taught for over 20 years in the East York Board of Education, primary in mathematics. She was involved in programs related to the assessments and placements of immigrant and refugee students. Kathy’s teaching years were interspersed with leaves for travel and volunteer work. She served 14years on the board of Pueblito Canada, an organization that runs a children’s village in CostaRica. She also did a short stint on the board of the World Child Foundation. Kathy has done volunteer work with Youth Corps,Teachers for Justice, the Newman Foundation and sits on the board of Jesuit Refugee and Migration Services. She has been on the board of Romero House since 2007.
Shahid Akhtar is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioner and president of Conciliators Without Borders.
Shahid Akhtar is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioner and president of Conciliators Without Borders. He has practiced international corporate law and worked as a journalist, mediator and facilitator. He is the co-founder of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims and has been engaged in promoting a Canadian model of bridging the divides in the interfaith communities in Canada, the US, the United Nations and in the MiddleEast. Shahid has published “The 7Cs Compass for Conflict Resolution-A Practical Guide for RealADR” and is currently writing “The Reluctant Cousins: Jewish-Muslim Relations in the 21stCentury-Imagining the Possibilities”.