Here's What Mississauga is Doing About the Recent Influx of Refugees
While Canada has been making headlines in regards to its refugee resettlement promises since the country began welcoming displaced Syrian refugees, talk about housing migrants—many of whom have come to Canada in an attempt to flee Donald Trump’s problematic policies—recently reached a fever pitch.
Now, it looks like the Region of Peel (a region comprised of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon) is set to help out the City of Toronto by providing shelter space for the some of the refugees who recently arrived in Canada from the U.S.
According to the report, the number of refugee claimants in Peel adult shelters has been trending upwards, with a significant increase in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.
A few weeks ago, Toronto Mayor John Tory called on the federal government to help the city—which has been struggling to house the unprecedented influx of migrants in shelters and school dormitories—deal with situation.
While Peel—which has also seen an uptick in claimants—has pledged to help, the report indicates it’s currently facing challenges and requires additional support.
“This increase in refugee claimants is contributing to additional operating costs, primarily impacting the Peel Family Shelter, and additional funds are required to meet the need,” the report reads.
“Homeless clients, including refugee claimants, are currently being accommodated through standard overflow practices.”
The flow of migrants into Canada is indeed unprecedented.
The report notes that, in Quebec, the provincial government is projecting daily arrivals of 400 refugee claimants.
In April, the Quebec Immigration Minister announced that the province will stop accepting new arrivals to their shelter system once they reach 85 per cent capacity.
In response, the federal government has agreed to move refugee claimants who intend to settle in other parts of Canada to those locations while their immigration cases are resolved.
The government also pledged to add $74 million to the national claim-processing system, and provide $50 million of funding to Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba to assist with the costs of services for those crossing into Canada.
In Toronto, the situation has been uniquely challenging.
According to the report, The City of Toronto says that half of all refugee claimants to Canada made their claim in Quebec (24,980 out of 49,775)—that’s up from just 5,525 refugee claims in 2016.
The report says that the number of refugee claimants in Toronto’s shelter system on an average monthly night has increased from 459 (11.2 per cent of the total system) in 2016 to 2,683 (40.8 per cent of the total system) in May 2018.
The estimated cost to the municipality to date is $64.5 million.
If the current rate of arrival sustains itself, refugee claimants will represent more than 50 per cent of Toronto’s shelter residents by November 2018.
In Peel, shelter space is already difficult to come by.
According to the report, adult emergency shelters in Peel Region have often been at or beyond maximum occupancy since the second quarter of 2016.
“As a result, the adult shelter overflow protocol is being utilized where families are placed in hotels/motels and single individuals are placed in cots within the same facility,” the report reads.
“In addition, individuals are transferred within Peel’s shelter system from shelters in overflow to those with excess capacity, for full space utilization and to ensure everyone in need is accommodated.”
Last November, Peel council learned that while its local shelters were often at capacity, available data indicated that the percentage of refugees in the shelter system was relatively low—sitting at an average of 4 per cent.
The increase of refugee claimants primarily started in the fourth quarter of 2017:
The report says the increase was most apparent at the Peel Family Shelter, as the numbers increased to 385 individuals from 23 individuals in the previous quarter.
From January to May 31, 2018, the total number of refugee claimants increased to 12 per cent of shelter residents, which includes families and single males and females.
The report says the refugee claimants account for 37 per cent of shelter residents at Peel Family Shelter for the same time period.
“Many of the refugee claimants are large families who have reported to shelter staff a preference to reside in Peel long term. Due to the increase in refugee claimants combined with the size of families, Peel Family Shelter has experienced the highest demand in terms of occupancy,” the report reads.
As for what cities intend to do to settle refugees, the report says the Ministry of Housing recently held a conference call with represetatives from several cities to ask for assistance in providing ongoing and regular information related to excess capacity in local shelter systems.
The report says the data collected will be used in conjunction with other information on local employment opportunities and/or vacancy rates to help refugee claimants make “informed decisions” on where they choose to stay while their claim is processed by the federal government.
In terms of current financial implications, the report says the cost of refugee claimants to Peel’s emergency shelter system in 2017 was $318,902.
As of May 31, 2018, it sits at $475,481.
“If trends continue, the projected cost for the year will be $1,141,155,” the report reads. “These costs put pressure on our shelter budget, with each additional dollar spent on overflow funded 40.2% by the region and 59.8% from the province. These overflow costs will continue to be monitored and variances presented to council through the triannual reporting process.”
The region, noting that it’s an attractive region for newcomers due to its diverse communities, says it’s asking for support to effectively and efficiently settle new residents.
“In order to ensure that services and programs remain available to all, the Region is requesting the appropriate supports and additional financial assistance from the federal and provincial governments to cover the costs associated with accommodating the increase in refugee claimants in the shelter system,” the report reads.
“Without additional federal and provincial funding, Peel Region runs the risk of not having the capacity to provide emergency shelter supports to all homeless clients requiring services and programming.”
In the meantime, the report says Peel will continue to provide services offered through the adult shelter system to refugee claimants and other homeless individuals seeking help.
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