More than 1,300 refugees need temporary shelter in Mississauga and Brampton: Report

By

Published February 21, 2024 at 1:21 pm

Cost to house asylum seekers $9.3M every year in Mississauga and Brampton

Several more temporary shelters to house the record-high number of asylum claimants in Mississauga and Brampton may get the go-ahead by Peel councillors who’ll meet behind closed doors on Thursday morning in continuing efforts to deal with the crisis.

While the Region of Peel opened one dorm-style dedicated temporary shelter in December that houses 228 asylum claimants per night and is currently at full capacity, “additional sites are needed to re-locate the 1,300 individuals remaining in the shelter system and overflow hotels,” Sean Baird, Peel’s commissioner of human services, wrote in a report to be tabled at regional council on Thursday.

The temporary shelter sites, which offer short-term accommodations, settlement supports and other services for refugees, are meant to “better support the unique needs of asylum claimants and to free up spaces in the shelter system,” the report continued.

Proposed sites for several additional shelters in both Mississauga and Brampton will be discussed in closed session — as is customary for such lease agreement matters — by Region of Peel councillors and staff on Thursday.

Plans for a “regional reception centre” in addition to the shelters will also be discussed. That centre would serve as “a point of intake for asylum claimants” and provide streamlined services and supports, immediate respite and additional shelter spaces.

The additional shelter facilities would provide space to support “both families and individuals outside of the shelter system using a flexible approach that can change based on need.”

Region staff is seeking council approval to begin negotiating contracts in order to get the facilities up and running as soon as possible.

Mississauga Ward 5 Coun. Carolyn Parrish said at Wednesday’s meeting of Mississauga’s general committee that tomorrow’s “pressing” discussion is crucial to dealing with the refugee crisis in Peel.

The federal government has called the situation an “unprecedented” one in terms of the huge number of asylum seekers that has descended on Toronto and Peel the past year or two.

“There is a very pressing matter with temporary housing for both refugees and the overflow of people who are homeless and I hope everybody listens carefully tomorrow and does what they can on this vote because it’s really significant,” said Parrish, who noted one of the proposed facilities is in her ward.

Peel is getting $7 million from Ottawa to build needed shelters, and Parrish added it’s important to remove any roadblocks at the municipal level.

She suggested City of Mississauga staff “instruct the folks at committee of adjustment (where changes to zoning rules are considered) to stop being quite so rigid on some of the (shelter) locations.

“We have to all pitch in on this; it’s a serious problem. Turns out Toronto and Peel have the biggest problems, so I think it’s up to us to solve them.”

Andrew Whittemore, Mississauga’s planning and building commissioner, said city staff have been working with the region to make things easier.

“Not only do we have to work through the committee of adjustment, but we think over the long term we really need to adjust our planning policy to enable these type of emergency shelters when an emergency is in place,” he added, noting his staff is looking at amendments to both the city’s Official Plan and zoning bylaw.

The report to be presented at Thursday’s regional council also notes:

  • there are about 1,529 asylum claimants in Peel’s shelter system as of Feb. 4 (shelter system is operating at 383 per cent capacity)
  • asylum claimants occupy 72 per cent of available shelter and overflow hotel beds in Peel (that number has been five per cent, historically)
  • the influx of asylum claimants is expected to continue at current or increased levels
  • Peel has opened six more overflow hotels to meet the demand for shelter beds, bringing the total to 11 (cost to region an additional $26.9 million in 2023 and costs will increase to more than $68 million in 2024)

“The influx of asylum claimants has placed immense pressure on Peel’s shelter system,” the report from Baird concludes. “Together with federal, provincial and municipal partners, staff is developing a more sustainable solution to meet the needs of asylum claimants in Peel and beyond. Staff will return to council in March with full details.”

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising