Durham, Toronto among communities sharing $42 million from Province for asylum seekers

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Published September 18, 2023 at 2:06 pm

The Region of Durham is getting $826,000 from the provincial government to help provide urgently needed assistance for asylum seekers and other at-risk populations in Durham, part of $42 million in new provincial money for the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit program.

More than half of those funds – $26.42 million (including a $6.67 million contribution from the City – are headed to Toronto, which has been the hardest hit by the influx of new immigrants requiring support.

The funds come at a time of record-breaking numbers of refugees flooding into Toronto and the rest of the GTA, leaving Durham Region’s support system “exhausted” and prompting a call from Durham Chair John Henry, Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier and other civic leaders for more help from the upper tier levels of government.

The Region has worked to settle newcomers, including refugees and asylum seekers, through various programs for years. They, like most municipalities in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area, have expanded their services for newcomers as rates continued to increase. The services include initiatives to help people settle and emergency shelters.

Henry said in June the Region “cannot keep up with this demand” and urged both the provincial and federal governments to step up.

“We have exhausted the capacity in our system and any funding we had available to support newcomers.”

Ajax’s own support system for incoming refugees and asylum seekers has also been “completely exhausted” due to a “sudden influx” of desperate migrants who require aid and shelter.

According to Collier, nearly 200 new refugees came to town in June which put “immense pressure on an already stretched social support system.”

The same story is also being played out in Oshawa and other communities in the Region.

Toronto is getting the biggest chunk of the funding but York ($2.355 million) and Peel ($2.355 million) regions are also receiving more than $2 million under the program, while Ottawa ($1.802 million), London ($1.187), Niagara ($1.148 million) and Hamilton ($1.076 million) will receive $1 million-plus.

The funding allocations reflect the estimated share of asylum claimants in each service manager area and their relative impact on local services, based on provincial social assistance data.

Other municipalities receiving assistance under the program include:

  • Halton Region ($685,500)
  • City of Brantford ($317,000)
  • City of Cornwall ($249,000)
  • Dufferin County ($130,800)
  • Thunder Bay district (50,000)
  • Cochrane District ($50,000) and
  • Grey County ($50,000)

An additional $330,000 will be provided to the Ministry of Finance and Service Ontario for administration of the funding.

Ottawa, which historically contributes two-thirds of the cost of the housing benefit program, kicked in a one-time injection of $212 million into the Interim Housing Assistance Program in July that will last until March 31, 2024.

The program works on a cost-sharing basis with municipalities and provinces to provide temporary housing to asylum claimants.

With files from Liam McConnell

Photo courtesy Municipal World

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