The city of Toronto is continuing its plea for more federal money in the wake of a report on homelessness that found 40 per cent of those using city shelter services are refugee or asylum claimants.
That number has grown from 11 per cent in early 2016 and 25 per cent late last year, according to the city’s estimates.
“The city can’t do this alone,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement. “The federal government has come forward with initial help but we need the continued assistance of our federal and provincial partners to ensure that Toronto remains a safe, welcoming and accessible place for all.”
The 2018 data was collected as part of the Street Needs Assessment, a snapshot of the homeless population that was conducted on April 26 and released on Thursday.
The report pegged the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city at 8,715 people, compared to 5,253 in 2013, the last time the study was conducted.
The sharp rise was largely due to the influx of newcomers seeking emergency shelter, the report said, but it also noted that the city has added more spaces through 24-hour respite sites since the previous study was conducted.
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The federal government has committed $11 million to Toronto to house refugee and asylum claimants.
The city, however, is seeking reimbursement of all costs incurred last year and this year, which it estimates is in excess $64.5 million plus another $6.3 million for the use of college dormitories over the summer.
The city is also calling on the federal government to provide annual funding of $43 million and co-ordination between the federal and provincial governments to respond to the “increasing and acute challenge.”
Toronto’s homelessness report comes on the same day the federal government’s budget watchdog revealed that asylum seekers who entered Canada irregularly last year will cost federal organizations a total of $340 million.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux says the average cost for migrants who entered the country between April 2017 and March 2018 is just over $14,000, but this amount can vary based on how long they have to wait for their refugee claims to be finalized.
Ontario has estimated the annual cost to the province at $200 million.
— With files from the Canadian Press