Homelessness Among Refugees and Newcomers Becomes A Growing Problem in Canada
Newly released government data is shedding light on the growing problem of homelessness amongst immigrants and refugees, revealing that a shockingly high number of newcomers find themselves living in homeless shelters after arriving in Canada.
The two reports released by Employment and Social Development Canada analyzed federal data on homeless shelter users between 2005 and 2016 and discovered a dramatic increase in refugees using shelters during this 11-year period.
According to the reports, 2,000 refugees were sleeping in shelters in 2016, which is double what was reported two years prior. This does not include facilities designated specifically for refugees.
A separate federal study recently released also tracked homelessness in 61 communities across Canada and confirmed a trend of homelessness among newcomers.
This study found that of all Canadians who identified as homeless in 2018, 14 per cent were newcomers to Canada. Among this group, eight per cent had claimed to be immigrants, while three per cent identified as refugees and four per cent as asylum claimants.
Tim Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, told the Canadian Press that he believes the reason why so many refugees are turning to homeless shelters is the lack of housing capacity in areas where the majority refugees are settling. These areas include major cities such as Toronto and Montreal that are known for lack of affordable rental housing.
In fact, back in late 2018, the city of Toronto estimated that around 40 per cent of people using its shelters were refugees or asylum claimants. As a result, other cities in the province of Ontario were asked to help relieve some of the stress on Toronto's shelter system by taking in homeless refugees.
Even smaller cities like Ottawa and Winnipeg, are also experiencing a high homeless newcomer population, with around one quarter of Ottawa’s homeless population reported to be immigrants or refugees in late 2018.
However, Richter also told the Canadian Press that he remains hopeful that things will improve, as the figures from the national shelter study do show that homelessness overall is decreasing, and many cities are taking steps towards improving the issue.
"We're seeing that it is possible, and we know how to do it, it's just a matter of getting on with it," Richter said. "I'm hopeful that we are going to see, now, consistent and focused trends going in the opposite direction."