Toronto’s crowded homeless shelters are no place for refugees fleeing war and persecution

The large quantity


the variety of homeless refugees in Toronto’s shelter system earlier than the pandemic in February 2020, in keeping with town’s shelter move information — that’s about 30 per cent of all shelter customers. 961 have been youngsters below the age of 16

One of many issues that offers quite a lot of Canadians solace in occasions of struggle all over the world is the concept that our nation might be there for these in search of refuge from violence and persecution. We’re a rustic dedicated to welcoming others in want, we wish to say — that is what Canada is.

In order horrific pictures pour in from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and we learn studies of 1000’s of households in search of refuge, I’d wish to make a easy request: can Canada please begin dwelling as much as that idealized picture? Can we be what we are saying we’re?

As a result of the latest observe file on that entrance is, effectively, not nice.

Positive, this nation has taken in lots of refugees in recent times, from nations like Syria, Haiti and Afghanistan, amongst others. However an alarming variety of these refugees, upon arrival, have been directed to not protected housing however to the shelter system in Canada’s largest metropolis.

Earlier than the pandemic, Toronto’s shelter system was utilized by nearly 3,000 chronically homeless refugees or asylum claimants every evening. About 1,000 of these refugees have been youngsters below 16. I repeat: youngsters. In complete, about 30 per cent of all Toronto shelter customers have been folks with a refugee declare.

The town makes efforts to seek out housing for folks within the shelter system, however pre-pandemic these efforts have been overwhelmed by extra arriving refugees who have been additionally unceremoniously directed to the shelter system. In February of 2020, for instance, 394 refugees within the shelter system have been efficiently moved to housing — excellent news — however 422 refugees have been newly recognized as homeless, according to the city’s shelter flow data. Each step ahead matched and exceeded by a step backward.

Within the quick aftermath of previous worldwide disasters or wars, the sheer variety of refugees within the metropolis’s shelter system has threatened to overwhelm already jam-packed services. Between 2016 and 2018, pushed by conflicts and violence in a number of nations and by adjustments to refugee coverage in the US pushed by then-president Donald Trump, the number of refugees in the shelter system elevated from about 459 on common every evening to 2,683.

Consequently, Mayor John Tory and Toronto council started an annual custom of together with a request within the metropolis funds for federal funds to cowl prices associated to refugees. This 12 months, the request is for $61 million. That’s down from the $77 million requested within the 2020 funds, the final funds handed earlier than the pandemic, however solely as a result of the number of refugees coming to Canada declined significantly during COVID-19. However nonetheless, in January town reported 1,726 refugees within the shelter system, together with 470 youngsters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s authorities is prone to come by way of with some hasty funding to match metropolis corridor’s request, simply because it has in previous years. However up to now, regardless of years of this shameful establishment wherein refugees are despatched to homeless shelters, there was little motion on Trudeau working with Tory and metropolis corridor to provide you with a everlasting repair.

The pandemic, with borders closed briefly, supplied a chance to provide you with a plan. It was wasted.

And so now, with the actual chance that Canada will see one other large wave of refugee arrivals from these fleeing the Russian invasion in Ukraine, there’s each cause to count on the identical errors. Refugees in search of houses might be unceremoniously despatched to Toronto shelters. Many could have no clear pathway to housing.

I’m not suggesting this struggle in Ukraine calls for specialised remedy for refugees. Canada’s remedy of refugees ought to be the identical for all who all who come right here in want of a brand new dwelling — whether or not they’re fleeing from a struggle making headlines or fleeing from a authorities that persecutes them based mostly on who they’re. The system has been failing all refugees for too lengthy.

There’s a number of blame to go round. Let’s begin with metropolis corridor. A part of the explanation that is so unhappy is as a result of Toronto’s shelter system is notoriously overcrowded, with services which have a popularity for making customers really feel unsafe. All shelter customers — refugees or in any other case — deserve an entire lot higher.

Premier Doug Ford’s authorities has additionally fallen manner quick on funding supportive housing that would assist newcomers.

However the brunt of my anger goes to the Trudeau authorities. Ottawa has let this downside linger for years whereas additionally pumping up Canada’s popularity as a welcoming place for refugees on the world stage. A rustic with 1000’s of refugees in homeless shelters shouldn’t declare that popularity. It’s a fraud. These refugees come to our nation in determined want of a brand new dwelling. Our nation retains them homeless.

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