In a city like ours, we should be able to welcome people fleeing persecution and looking for a better life. The City of Toronto should have the resources committed by the federal government to do this – and it is unacceptable that is not the case.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard from concerned neighbours, advocates, and organizations about the well-being of refugee claimants who are seeking emergency shelter at 129 Peter St. and I have visited the site myself with community advocates to meet with staff doing their best in a dire situation. While people can access services there, there is no shelter onsite and shelters across Toronto are full.
I’m with you: this current situation is unconscionable.
I’ve been working alongside my Council colleagues, city staff, advocates, and civil society groups to understand how this crisis has come to be, ensure people are accessing the services they need, and do everything possible to improve the situation.
Here you'll find background on this situation, information about the services available at 129 Peter St, and the next steps I am taking alongside our community to urgently address the needs. Please join the call for immediate action on this crisis and sign this petition to tell Parliament to fund shelter space now.
The City continues to face unprecedented demand for shelter services. On May 10, 2023 City Council adopted a motion declaring a homelessness emergency in the City of Toronto. While the City has increased shelter occupancy from supporting 4,000 people in 2016, to 9,000 people today, demand continues to grow and each night the city’s shelters are unable to provide shelter to hundreds of people requesting a space.
This demand is due to a number of reasons - the continued unaffordability of the housing market in Toronto, reduced federal and provincial funding for shelters, and the growing number of refugee claimants seeking emergency accommodations and wrap-around supports.
Of the over 3,000 refugee claimants accessing the shelter system each day, the City has funding to support 500 but is using reserve resources to support the increase. The federal government promised $97 million in funding that it has not delivered. The current, unfunded costs are closer to $157 million.
Funding is not the only issue - the City also needs support from higher levels on coordinating logistics across municipalities, transportation, and in accessing spaces to provide more emergency shelter spaces. City Council adopted a motion urging the Government of Canada to secure emergency shelter services for refugees.
We know the federal government is providing this support to other municipalities. Toronto needs a fair, sustainable funding model for shelters for all people who call it home.
129 Peter Street
129 Peter St is the Streets to Homes Assessment Referral Centre (SHARC), which works to support people experiencing homelessness who are connected to the City’s street outreach team and are awaiting transfer into the transitional shelter program or other available shelter space.
We’ve heard that refugee claimants are being directed there by airport agents.
I’ve been in continuous contact and visited 129 Peter St with City staff and advocates who are providing services, information, food, medical attention, and necessary supplies to people outside. We’ve ensured that folks are able to and informed that they can use the services on site, like showers and laundry facilities between 8 am and 8 pm and washrooms 24/7.
City staff are working with the facilities team to sweep and increase waste removal on the sidewalk and are collaborating with other City Divisions where necessary.
Actions and Next Steps
This situation is a priority for me and I have been heartened by the response from our community. I continue to be in touch with people and organizations who are providing support on the ground including: advocates who work with refugees and people experiencing homelessness who are fundraising; local BIAs offering food and employment opportunities; refugee serving organizations who provide legal advice and connect folks with services.
It’s also a priority for Mayor Chow. I continue to collaborate with her, my council colleagues, and city staff on what is possible from the City’s perspective.
We also need your support, in pressuring the federal government to live up to their responsibilities. Please sign this petition to write to your federal Member of Parliament and demand their action.