12% of emergency shelter beds in London, Ont., occupied by asylum seekers

As shelter capacities in places like Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and Niagara Falls reach their limits, more migrants have been making their way to London 'due to proximity for alternative housing options and support.'

12% of emergency shelter beds in London, Ont., occupied by asylum seekers
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The emergency shelter system in London, Ontario, is buckling under pressure from an influx of asylum seekers. Nearly 12% of emergency shelter bed usage between May 1, 2023, and March 31, 2024, was attributed to migrants, according to a city report.

The number of asylum seekers has been climbing in Canada in recent years, with CBC reporting the 60,000 claims filed midway through 2023 were “the highest count in almost a decade.”

Costs for housing the migrants in London were totalled $1,070,316, the report said.

As shelter capacities in places like Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and Niagara Falls reach their limits, more migrants have been making their way to London “due to proximity for alternative housing options and support,” explains the report, which noted “connections to friends, family, services and faith group supports already in the area” also made the city an appealing option.

The report highlighted how emergency shelters are operating over capacity, leading to more people being left without housing. With the data being based on self-reported numbers, and an unknown amount of asylum seekers staying with friends or relatives, city staff suggested the number of migrants could be higher than the 12% in the report.

"I've had some clients who have had to sleep in their cars because relatives can no longer keep housing them," immigration lawyer Harkamal Singh told CBC. "Getting a bed in the shelters can be difficult because the shelters are full quite often. Having shelter is the most important thing."

In November 2023, London Mayor Josh Morgan and Ward 7 Councillor Corrine Rahman called on the federal and provincial governments to help fix the growing crisis.

Mission Services, a group that helps asylum seekers, said that on Oct. 23 last year, 30% of the families at the Rotholme Family Shelter were refugees. The Men's Mission, another facility operated by the organization, had about 19% of its beds used by refugees.

“We know asylum seekers are here. We know they need to be provided with services. We know the federal government has the capacity to do that. And it’d be my intention to work in partnership with them,” Mayor Morgan said, Global News reported.

“Asylum seekers are continuing to enter the country every day, and we continue to be in a housing crisis. So I think that while obviously we should help those seeking asylum, that’s the federal government’s role,” added Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government's approach to immigration during a recent radio interview.

“You can invite half a million people into your home every year if you're Canada and not experience growing pains at all,” said Trudeau, referring to the number of new permanent residents in the country.

“Canada is lucky in that we've never had to deal with irregular immigration,” he said. “People coming from the south will stay in the United States, where the economy is stronger, the weather is nicer. They're not going to cross the three oceans to come to Canada. It hasn't been the challenge it has been elsewhere, and we've been able to be positive around immigration because of it.” 

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