Toronto opening student housing as temporary refugee shelters

May 24 2018, 10:13 pm

Following an urgent request for federal and provincial assistance to aid with growing refugee arrivals, the City of Toronto has announced it has activated an emergency plan.

On Wednesday, the Office of Emergency Management said that starting May 24, the city will begin temporarily housing refugee claimants and new arrivals in 400 beds at the Centennial College Residence and Conference Centre in Scarborough.

And after June 1, the city will also begin using 400 beds at Humber College in Etobicoke to house refugee claimants.

“As the city’s shelter system has reached its capacity to accommodate new refugee arrivals to Toronto, the Office of Emergency Management has activated a protocol to secure contingency housing sites and Red Cross staffing support,” said James Kilgour, Director, Office of Emergency Management, in a release.

“This is part of the city’s compassionate and coordinated approach to dealing with unprecedented events and emergency situations.”

According to the city, the province facilitated the availability of the college dormitories and committed up to $3 million in Red Cross staffing costs as part of the anticipated $6.3 million total cost of operating these contingency sites for the next 75 days.

The emergency housing will only be available until early August, when students return to campus.

The city said that its emergency protocol then may require the use of municipal facilities, including active community centres, to relocate refugee claimants in Toronto and accommodate new arrivals.

“Toronto has a long history of welcoming refugees but the city can no longer absorb the cost and impact of the increasing numbers of refugee claimants coming into the country,” said Mayor John Tory.

Tory continued to say that the city required the federal government to support Toronto’s shelter system.

“We have triggered our emergency protocol to help these families in their time of need, with some support from the Government of Ontario, but require the federal government to take immediate steps to permanently relieve this unprecedented pressure on the city’s shelter system,” he said.

Since April 19, 368 refugee claimants have entered the shelter system, and 1,720 refugee claimants have found permanent housing since January 1, 2017.

At the current rate of arrivals, the city projects that refugee claimants will represent more than 53.6% of Toronto’s shelter population by November.

Anticipated incurred costs are currently at $64.5 million by the end of 2018, and the additional $6.3 million cost of emergency contingency sites will increase this projected total.

The city says that more than 19,000 people use their shelters annually, which is more than any other Canadian municipality. Moreover, the City of Toronto’s shelter system continues to operate at a 96% occupancy rate.

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