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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Toronto can no longer handle influx of refugee claimants says Mayor. 2017-18 costs $64.5 million and counting. Quebec already said it can no longer accept refugees crossing from US-Toronto Star

6/26/18, "Toronto can’t handle influx of refugee claimants, [Mayor] Tory tells Ottawa," The Star, David Rider, Jennifer Pagliaro

"In an urgent letter, Mayor John Tory is telling the federal government that Toronto can no longer handle the influx of refugee claimants and will no longer do so without emergency financial help from senior governments.

In the letter, obtained by the Star on Monday, Tory states that Toronto welcomes all newcomers “but we need the appropriate support and leadership of both Ontario and Canada,” and that the city scrambling to find emergency shelter for each new wave of arrivals is not sustainable. 

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

Council will consider a report from city staff at a meeting that begins Tuesday.

The pressing problem saw the city begin to house refugee claimants in college dormitories starting in May. But those spaces are available only until the beginning of August. At that time, the city has no plan for how to house 800 people currently in those temporary spaces.

Tory’s letter says continuing to house them would require closing multiple community centres and cancelling public programs
That, Tory wrote, is “a step the city is not prepared to take.”

The blunt letter adds that after a recent announcement of $11 million from the federal government to help Ontario with housing, “no details about how or where this funding will be used have been made available.” 

The city says the direct costs of housing refugee claimants in 2017 and projected costs for 2018 are $64.5 million and counting.

Tory writes that Toronto has a long history of welcoming newcomers and supports the federal refugee program, “but responsibility for these populations does not end at the border, and we simply can no longer contend with their housing needs alone.”

Tory concludes by offering to have city staff arrange for federal officials to visit hotel or dormitory sites Toronto is using to temporarily house refugees and asylum seekers, so they can see first-hand the pressure on the system.

According to updated numbers from the city that are current to mid-June, there are nearly 3,200 refugee claimants in the shelter system. Most are housed in motels rented by the city. There are currently no rooms available.

It is also mostly families who are occupying the dorms at Humber and Centennial colleges, which are available until Aug. 9. 

According to a briefing note by city staff, there were only 42 rooms available for families at either college as of mid-June. Those family spaces are expected to be full before August. There were 231 rooms available for singles.

The city’s shelter system has 6,806 beds and has consistently been operating at a nightly capacity of 95 per cent, with family occupancy at 100 per cent. The city today relies on a number of 24-7 respite centres and drop-ins to house those who are homeless. 

Despite warming temperatures, those services also remain stretched. 

A list of 87 families waiting for shelter beds are mostly refugee claimants, says the city staff report. Seven of those families are currently being housed in the dining rooms or offices of shelters amid the capacity crisis.

In April, as the Quebec government announced it would no longer be housing refugees crossing from the United States into the province due to its own capacity issues, Tory called on the federal and provincial governments to help with the costs of housing and also look for spaces outside the city’s borders.

Quebec’s government, the city says, is currently projecting daily arrivals of 400 refugees, meaning the current temporary spaces in Toronto will soon be full.

“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."


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