4 in 10 people using Toronto homeless shelters are refugees or asylum claimants, report finds

The percentage of refugee and asylum claimants using Toronto’s homeless shelters has skyrocketed and created an “unsustainable situation,” according to a new report from the city.

Approximately 40 per cent of people using shelters identified as refugees or asylum claimants in Toronto’s latest Street Needs Assessment survey, which was conducted on April 26, 2018. The total number of users now stands at 2,618 people.

That number is up from 25 per cent in 2017 and 11 per cent in 2016.

The rise has prompted the city to renew its calls for greater assistance from higher levels of government.

“The city can’t do this alone. 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,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement.

An additional 18 to 20 new refugee or asylum claimants continue to enter Toronto’s shelter system every day, the city says.

The influx is expected to further strain the system during the upcoming winter months, when more people use shelter services.

City calling for full reimbursement

Toronto has been calling for increased assistance to help manage the current wave of refugee and asylum claimants, which started in late 2015.

The city is requesting a full reimbursement of all costs incurred in 2017 and 2018, which it estimates at a minimum of $64.5 million, with another $6.3 million for the use of college dormitories this summer.

The city is also requesting annual funding of $43 million per year starting in 2019, in addition to a “federal and provincial coordinated response” to the issue.

Earlier this year, Ottawa announced $11 million in assistance for the influx of asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s PC government has criticized the federal government for creating what it called the immigration “mess,” and said Ottawa should cover 100 per cent of the resulting costs.

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