Toronto Seeks Ottawa’s Help to House Influx of Refugee Claimants

Scrambling to find emergency shelter for new arrivals has become unsustainable, says Tory
June 26, 2018 Updated: June 26, 2018

TORONTO—Toronto is no longer able to handle the numbers of refugee claimants arriving in the city because of over-capacitated shelters, and is seeking support from the federal and provincial governments.

Mayor John Tory has written a letter to Ottawa outlining his concerns and the urgency of the situation. According to the Toronto Star, Tory writes that the city welcomes all newcomers, but “they need the appropriate support and leadership of both Ontario and Canada.”

The way the city is scavenging for emergency shelters is not a sustainable way of dealing with the influx of refugees, he adds.

“What’s needed is proper housing and proper supports, something that the city cannot provide on its own.”

Since 2016, the average number of refugees in shelters has gone up year over year. According to a February report from the deputy city manager, the average nighttime occupancy by refugee claimants rose from 459 in January 2016 to 1,779 in January 2018.

To meet the increasing demand, the city has been adding beds to existing programs, opening new shelters, and expanding motels and shelter services, mainly for families.

Currently, most of the refugees are living in motels rented out by the city, and even those are reaching full capacity.

Eight hundred newly arrived refugees are temporarily staying at two Toronto college dorms, but in August they be displaced by students returning for the new school year.

“(A)s of August 9, we will have no ability to accommodate the 800 refugees and asylum seekers currently housed on a temporary basis in dormitories at two Toronto colleges,” Tory wrote, according to the National Post.

Additional refugees are housed in temporary 24-7 respite centres and drop-ins, and these are also stretched thin.

“Although an exhaustive search for additional shelter capacity is being pursued with federal and provincial colleagues, still no appropriate sites for additional shelter space for refugee/asylum claimants have been identified,” a city report to be tabled at council reads, the Star reported.

Although the federal government has announced $11 million to help Ontario with the crisis, it is unclear how the funding will be issued or used, Tory says in his letter.

The refugees are crossing the border from the United States into Quebec and then into Ontario. In April, the Quebec government announced it will no longer house refugees, citing a lack of capacity.