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Toronto’s inability to house refugees is causing a homelessness diaspora across Ontario
Toronto's inability to house refugees is causing a homelessness diaspora across Ontario
Canadian News

Toronto’s inability to house refugees is causing a homelessness diaspora across Ontario 

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The City of Toronto is in desperate need of help concerning their homeless shelter services.

Despite adding more than 2500 shelter beds at the city’s own cost, there was a shelter wait list of 330 people as of recent reports in early January.

The total cost to house, feed and provide support to the refugees hit $67.1-million in 2017 and 2018. The federal government has only reimbursed the city in fits, and starts to the tune of $26-million.

Toronto has made headlines recently for similar stories, at it seems as though the city is having a very tough time adapting to the oncoming waves of irregular migrants that require food and shelter.

A briefing note to Monday’s budget committee says Toronto can no longer accommodate an ongoing influx of refugees wanting to be housed in the city’s shelter system.

“Toronto’s shelter system is in immediate danger of being overwhelmed,” says the seven-page update from Paul Raftis, general manager of the city’s Shelter, Support and Housing department.

Raftis notes that an average of 18 new refugee claimants are seeking accommodation in city shelters daily and from the beginning of last September to the end of the year alone, 2,066 irregular migrants have turned up at Toronto’s shelters.

The city is currently looking for $45 million in funding from the federal government to deal with the coming costs in 2019.

As Raftis’ note states: “The city has effectively been left to shoulder the costs and to manage the continued influx of refugee claimants seeking shelter in a system that has reached a saturation point.”

The intended plan does not seem to have been very clear, as the city was apparently never fully equipped to properly handle such a high number of refugees. We have already witnessed some more resourceful attempts at aiding the crisis, including the refugee hotel. What will be done next though, is unclear.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, and one that seems as though it could have been prevented with enough foresight. Prime Minister Trudeau welcomed a vast number of refugees into the country in January 2017, but those very refugees are the ones that are occupying a reported 40% of the shelter space, as of now.

Recently, homeless and housing advocates have called upon the city of Toronto to declare an emergency to secure provincial and federal assistance in hopes of ending the ongoing crisis that has lead to the unfortunate deaths of homeless men and women across the city.

“The mayor has to understand that this is chaos,” said Gaetan Heroux of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. “On a daily basis, all the agencies that are trying to deal with this are having a hard, hard time, and more importantly the people living in those places are having a hard time.”

Attention was garnered nationally after Heroux along with dozens of others gathered in Toronto in January to lay flowers on a grate in an alleyway where a homeless woman was struck and killed by a garbage truck

“There’s no outreach here, other than from the community that works with homeless people, it doesn’t seem that it’s registering,” she said.

The group is demanding 2,000 new shelter beds in 2019, noting the City’s plans for the creation of 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020 is not sufficient.

Also, “affordable housing, open harm reduction-based shelters for women and trans people, and fund overdose prevention programs across the province,” listed OCAP’s A.J. Withers while calling on all governments to do more to address the issues.

“John Tory, Doug Ford, Justin Trudeau, you can stop this from happening.”

Accepting high numbers of refugee families that are dependent on city shelters has caused a homelessness diaspora that has had impacts across Ontario.

The city of Windsor recently got a call from Toronto, asking if some of the asylum seekers could head southwest to take shelter in the rose city, but the answer was a firm no.

“Right now Windsor does not have the capacity through our temporary shelters to assist,” said Jelena Payne, the community development and health commissioner for the City of Windsor.

“Occasionally on some nights, we might have a handful of beds available, but that’s not what [Toronto] is looking for,” said Payne.

“They’re not looking for a bed here and a bed there. They’re looking at a more substantial impact.”

There is no family shelter in Windsor and that makes a difference, because many of the claimants in Toronto needing a roof over their heads are families with children.

Unfortunately for Windsor, the city’s reputation for being a cheaper place to live than Toronto could be what is luring so many homeless men and women to the city.

A recent survey conducted in Windsor found that 21% of the people who identified as homeless had been living in Windsor for less than a year. It’s a number that supports a link between rising homelessness numbers and people migrating here from other cities — attracted by the weather, access to social services and low cost of living.

What do you think of the ongoing crisis? Let us know in the comments below.

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