A series of Garth Brooks concerts in Hamilton has temporarily sent 31 Syrian refugee families to St. Catharines to free up hotels for fans of the country singer.
Wesley Urban Ministries has transported 228 people down the road to stay in a hotel there. The downtown Hamilton rooms had already been booked for the concerts on March 24, 25, 26 and 27, said executive director Daljit Garry.
"We knew in advance that this would happen," Garry said. "It wasn't a surprise."
The families traveled by bus to St. Catharines on Tuesday, she said. They'll be back on Sunday.
700 of 988 newcomers housed
Hundreds of families have been living in downtown Hamilton hotels, some for more than four weeks, as they search for affordable housing.
Garry said nearly 700 of the 988 newcomers have been housed. The agency hopes to have the rest in housing by the first week of April.
That means several families won't need to return to hotels this weekend.
Seventy-nine refugee families left the Sheraton Hamilton on Tuesday, but only 47 will check in again on March 27, said Peter Tosh, director of operations with Vrancor Hospitality Corp.
Homewood Suites and Staybridge Suites had refugee families living there at one point, Tosh said. But only the Sheraton still has refugee families living there.
"In late fall last year, Hamilton hotels started receiving bookings related to the Garth Brooks concert, long before we welcomed our first Syrian refugee family," he said
All three Vrancor-owned hotels are sold out during the concerts.