Toronto to set up two temporary shelters on campuses for refugee claimants
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2018 5:14PM EDT
The city will be allowed to set up temporary shelters on the campuses of Centennial College and Humber College to provide accommodations for new refugee claimants arriving in Toronto, but officials say the facilities are likely to be at capacity within 60 to 70 days.
A 400-bed facility at the Centennial College Residence and Conference Centre in Scarborough will be made available to the city tomorrow while another 400-bed facility at Humber College in Etobicoke will be made available on June 1.
City officials say that while the temporary shelters do give them some much needed capacity, they are unlikely to provide much more than a short-term solution.
They say that the facilities will likely be at capacity within 60 to 70 days. The city will also have to shut down the shelters in early August, so the space can be returned to the colleges ahead of the arrival of students for the fall semester.
“We have about 2,700 refugee claimants in the shelter system and we have exhausted our capacity and human resources to be able to deal with additional people,” Paul Raftis, the general manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration at the city, told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “Over the last month we have seen on average 10 people a day come into the shelter system and we expect that to continue going forward. Our concern is if it continues at that rate or speeds up, there will be nowhere top put individuals and they will end up on the street.”
Cost of operating the facilities pegged at $6.3M
Rafftis said that the city will relocate about 25 people a day from the shelter system to the temporarily facilities until both sites are at capacity.
He said that the cost of operating the facilities is estimated at $6.3 million for the summer, though the province is helping to cover about $3 million of that.
That cost is in addition to the estimated $64.5 million that the city anticipates it will have spent on providing shelter and social supports to refugee claimants by the end of 2018.
At a news conference in April, Mayor John Tory said that the city has “reached the limit” of its ability to provide shelter and other social supports to new refugee claimants and is in “urgent need” of financial assistance from other levels of government.
“We are looking for a regional response to this issue. The City of Toronto cannot manage the response on its own,” the Director of Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management James Kilgour told reporters on Wednesday. “There have been some helpful moves, the provision of this space at the two colleges being one. We are hopeful that that involvement will continue and increase. “
Kilgour said that the city may still require the use of other municipal facilities for temporary shelter spaces, including community centres, but will hopefully come up with a better solution through conversations with other levels of government.
According to numbers released by the city in April, the proportion of refugee claimants in Toronto’s shelter system has increased from 11.2 per cent in 2016 (459) to 37.6 per cent so far in 2018 (2,351). The city has indicated that it anticipates refugee claimants to represent more than 53.6 per cent of the city's shelter population by November.