The number of refugees coming to Toronto keeps rising — and city staff say they need to spend another $20 million to keep a roof over their heads.
In February 2016, the average number of beds used by refugees every night was roughly 450, according to a city report on refugee flows released this month. By September this year, this number had increased close to three times to roughly 1,270.
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Now, the city is considering extending existing contracts with five Toronto hotels to continue housing refugees until the end of 2018, at a cost of nearly $20 million.
But advocates, both inside city hall and out, agree this isn't the only solution needed.
"The $20 million can dry up very quickly if we experience a secondary spike," said Coun. Joe Mihevc. "That can dry up in a matter of months."
He said maintaining partnerships with both the provincial and federal governments is crucial to ensure refugee claims are processed quickly so they can find apartments and jobs, both for their own well-being and to reduce the cost of their hotel stays for the city.
Hotel stays a 'band-aid solution'
Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director of the FCJ Refugee Centre, says more shelter spaces and affordable public housing in Toronto are also neccessary to ensure refugees have a place to live long-term.
Speaking to CBC Toronto at the refugee centre near St. Clair Avenue West and Dufferin Street on Friday afternoon, Rico-Martinez pointed out the crowded lobby and stack of paperwork on his desk.
He said his staff are processing 40 to 50 people every day — at least double the usual number.
Hotel stays for these newcomers are just a "band-aid solution, and an expensive one," Rico-Martinez added.
The plan to extend hotel contracts is going to the city's Community Development and Recreation Committee on Monday.