The City of Toronto said Tuesday it has designated shelter spaces for more than 200 asylum seekers, responding to the rising numbers of refugee claimants sleeping on the streets, which the mayor has called a crisis.
A press release said the city has secured rooms at two hotels and a city emergency shelter for 212 asylum seekers.
Last week, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow secured unanimous approval on a motion to designate the spaces during her first council meeting as the city’s leader, with officials revealing that the number of asylum seekers in Toronto’s shelter system grew by 500 per cent in 20 months.
“In response to council’s direction to immediately make 150 shelter beds temporarily available, with an additional 100 spaces to follow, the city, with the support of the Canadian Red Cross, community leaders and agency providers, has surpassed the immediate goal of housing 150 individuals,” a statement from the city said.
“Work will continue this week to review space options to reach council’s decision to make 250 shelter spaces temporarily available.”
The statement said the spaces would, in part, come from the $97 million in federal funding recently earmarked for Toronto to help its overstretched shelter system cope with the high numbers of refugee claimants who are unhoused.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Chow have said the funding is welcome, but it still fell short of the $157 million the city needed to help shelter the roughly 3,000 asylum claimants who make up about a third of Toronto’s shelter capacity.
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On Tuesday, the city also encouraged property owners with available rental units to help provide much-needed housing for refugee claimants.
“Refugee claimants will receive support to pay their rent from the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit,” the city said.
It is also encouraging residents who want to help to directly donate to local organizations and service providers. The online DonateTO portal includes a map of community agencies that directly support refugee claimants at emergency shelters.
The city also thanked the leadership of Black-led community groups for the support so far, including organizing temporary shelter, providing food, clothing and other assistance for the asylum claimants from African countries.
“Refugees are an integral part of Toronto’s past, present and future success. All Toronto residents benefit from ensuring that individuals and families seeking asylum have safe homes and support,” it said.