No space in Windsor's temporary shelters for Toronto refugees

Toronto needs some help to house their refugee population but Windsor won't be able to lend a helping hand.

There may be a bed or two every now and then, but that's not sufficient, city official says

Windsor's temporary shelters are at capacity most days and would not be able to help out with Toronto's current struggles finding temporary housing for refugees. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The City of Windsor got a call from Toronto, asking if some of the asylum seekers can head southwest to take shelter in the rose city, but the answer is no.

"Right now Windsor does not have the capacity through our temporary shelters to assist," said Jelena Payne, the community development and health commissioner for the City of Windsor.

Payne said the city has been having conversations with Toronto and the province about housing refugees needing temporary shelters for the past six weeks. What Toronto is calling for is "a trifecta of requests," she said.

The refugees need communities that have room for families in temporary shelters from a few weeks to a few months, until they can find more permanent housing and employment in the city.

"Occasionally on some nights, we might have a handful of beds available, but that's not what [Toronto] is looking for," said Payne.

"They're not looking for a bed here and a bed there. They're looking at a more substantial impact."

There is no family shelter in Windsor and that makes a difference, because many of the claimants in Toronto needing a roof over their heads are families with children.

Payne said the city's been called to look at city-owned facilities to see if they may be an option to house those refugees, but the facilities would need to have showers, bathrooms, sleeping areas and kitchenettes for them to be viable options for families.

Windsor's commissioner of community development and health services Jelena Payne said the city's temporary shelters are at capacity most days. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Challenges for Windsorites

Not only is it hard to help out another Ontario city, it's also hard for the homeless people now living in Windsor, said Payne.

Temporary shelter doesn't have a whole lot of capacity on most days. And moving people into a more permanent place is also becoming harder.

Payne gave Windsor's Housing First program for the chronically homeless as an example.

The program focuses on finding a permanent home for people who have been homeless for a long time to "stabilize their situation" before focusing on their other needs.

Two years ago when the program started, it wasn't so hard to find a permanent place for people to live, she said. But now it has become much harder, because the housing market is "getting tighter and tighter."

"Moving people out of the shelters and trying to get them housed into permanent housing is continuing to prove a challenge in our current housing market.".