Two weeks after the Metropolis of Toronto mentioned it might start referring refugee claimants in search of beds in its at-capacity shelter system to federal applications, asylum seekers who not too long ago arrived in Canada are struggling to seek out locations to sleep.
Birck Teklau arrived in Toronto from Ethiopia on June 3 hoping to assert asylum as a result of, he says, of political persecution in his dwelling nation.
The 34-year-old says he’s been sleeping on the streets ever since — after being turned away from the town’s shelter system day after day.
“I attempted many occasions…. They are saying that we don’t have [a] place,” Teklau mentioned in an interview. “I by no means anticipated this from Canada.”
And he’s not alone.
Teklau was considered one of greater than a dozen asylum seekers from Africa who went to metropolis corridor Wednesday hoping to convey consideration to their incapability to seek out housing.
The metropolis says it wants extra monetary assist from the federal authorities to deal with rising demand for emergency shelter by residents and refugees, however it’s unclear when or if that further cash will arrive. Within the meantime, dozens of asylum seekers are caught in limbo, unable to entry the town’s shelter system and missing assist from the federal authorities.
Native group struggles to fill the hole
On Might 31, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie mentioned the town’s roughly 9,000-bed shelter system was at capability nightly, and it might now not deal with the excessive variety of refugee claimants hoping to entry a mattress. She mentioned the town had no alternative however to begin referring them to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada applications — although there are presently no federal shelter applications that present housing to folks in Toronto, in response to the town.
Metropolis officers say over the previous 20 months, the variety of asylum seekers in Toronto’s shelter system has multiplied by greater than 500 per cent, from a low of about 530 folks a night time in September of 2021 to greater than 2,800 in Might of 2023.
Town budgets annually for 500 shelter areas for asylum seekers per night time, however an extra 2,300 refugee claimants had been being accommodated regardless of the town having no further funding for them, the town mentioned in a information launch on the time.
Because of this, a whole bunch of individuals in search of shelter — each refugee claimants and non-refugee claimants — are being turned away every day, in response to Gord Tanner, the final supervisor of the town’s shelter, assist and housing administration division.
“We do admit folks when there’s area, however presently there’s simply no area,” Tanner mentioned in an interview.
Lorraine Lam, an outreach employee and organizer with the advocacy group Shelter and Housing Justice Community, mentioned the town’s choice successfully bans new asylum seekers from accessing the core shelter system, as a substitute limiting them to refugee-specific helps — which the town admits are already underfunded and at capability.
“What which means is you find yourself with a complete lot of people that actually have nowhere to go,” Lam mentioned.
“You’re principally making a separate ghetto of people who’re deemed kind of like second class [or] third class folks within the metropolis who don’t get entry to sources.”
The shortage of open beds at metropolis shelters has left native organizations struggling to assist these in want.
Meserat Demeke, president of the Ethiopian Affiliation of the Higher Toronto Space, mentioned volunteers together with her group discovered greater than 20 Ethiopian newcomers sleeping on the sidewalk Monday exterior of a downtown homeless assist centre.
She mentioned her group has been serving to 60 to 70 asylum seekers who not too long ago arrived in Canada from Africa however haven’t any housing. The affiliation has been fundraising to assist buy resort rooms and rental housing, however is working out of cash, she mentioned.
“We’re scrambling and we’re on the verge of actually burning out,” mentioned Demeke. “It’s not sustainable.”
Metropolis says federal authorities ‘turned its again’
Tanner mentioned the federal authorities has failed to offer the town with funding this yr to assist cowl the value of housing new arrivals — funding it has supplied lately, which the town has come to depend on.
Toronto wants $97 million this yr and a “honest, sustainable funding mannequin” going ahead to to proceed providing shelter assist to refugees, the town mentioned in a press release.
“We’ve got a federal authorities that’s turned its again on its tasks and supporting the Metropolis of Toronto and assembly the wants of of this susceptible group,” Tanner mentioned.
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) mentioned in an electronic mail that the federal authorities gives assist for asylum claimants in search of emergency shelter by way of the Interim Housing Help Program. Jefferey MacDonald mentioned this system has supplied $700 million to provinces and municipalities since 2017, together with roughly $215 million to the Metropolis of Toronto.
MacDonald mentioned the federal government additionally gives momentary lodging in accommodations for migrants who entered Canada on the unofficial Roxham Highway border crossing. Since final summer time, IRCC has bused 1000’s of migrants who arrived in Quebec to cities like Ottawa, Cornwall, Ont., and Niagara Falls, Ont., as Quebec’s shelter system — and accommodations rented by IRCC — reached capability.
Tanner mentioned asylum seekers in Toronto must also be put up in accommodations.
“We don’t have a pathway presently into federally supported shelter companies and that’s precisely what we’d like,” he mentioned.
Till then, the town mentioned it’s referring asylum seekers to daytime drop-ins, meal applications, and Service Canada for assist.
However that’s little consolation for asylum seekers like Teklau, who simply desire a roof over their heads.
“I don’t need [words]. I would like … speedy motion, proper now,” he mentioned.
On Thursday, mayoral candidate and Coun. Josh Matlow (Ward 12, Toronto—St. Paul’s) offered a movement to council calling for the town to work with the Ethiopian Affiliation of Higher Toronto Space and different settlement organizations to present “any potential type of shelter on an emergency foundation to refugee claimants.”