The provincial government is providing funding to municipalities across Ontario through the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) program to provide urgent assistance to a rapidly growing number of asylum claimants and other at-risk populations, the government said.
Of the $42 million investment, the City of Kingston will receive $399,600. According to a media release from the Ontario government, the funding allocations reflect the estimated share of asylum claimants in each area and their relative impact on local services, based on provincial social assistance data.
“This investment will ease growing pressures on homeless shelters by helping thousands of asylum seekers move into long-term housing,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Unfortunately, in Toronto and across the province, too many newcomers searching for a better life are struggling, living in our shelter systems, church basements or, in some cases, out on the streets. That’s just unacceptable. We need all levels of government working together to tackle this crisis.”
According to the release, this investment in 2023-24 through the COHB program will assist approximately 4,000 new households, helping move more people into housing and free up existing shelter spaces in impacted communities. The full breakdown of the funding can be found here.
The province said it continues to advocate strongly for Ontario municipalities and service managers to ensure they receive their fair share of federal funding to address the significant, ongoing rise in asylum claimants.
“Our government is stepping up to help municipalities deal with the pressures they are facing due to increased numbers of asylum claimants,” said Paul Calandra, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are committed to working constructively with our municipal partners, but we also firmly believe the federal government has a responsibility to step up as well and support municipalities in dealing with this crisis.”
Asylum claimants are individuals seeking asylum in Canada based on a fear of persecution in their home country. According to the release, they are ineligible for most federal support programs, such as financial assistance and settlement and language training services. They are different from persons who arrive in Canada having already been recognized as refugees, whose arrival to Canada as permanent residents allows them to qualify for federal supports. Asylum claimants in need of financial assistance may be eligible for social assistance and may apply for either Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
“This investment represents precisely the kind of support our municipal partners have been asking for. This funding will help municipalities provide life-changing support, including safe places to live for some of the most vulnerable,” said Rob Flack, Associate Minister of Housing. “Every individual deserves to live safe and healthy lives, free of violence, intimidation, and fear of persecution. We are proud to make this investment and hope it will inspire our federal counterparts to do the same.”
According to the province, this year alone, Ontario could receive more than 72,000 asylum claimants – nearly twice as many as last year.
Kingstonist has inquired with the City of Kingston as to how prevalent the matter of asylum claimants in need of housing is locally, as well as where and when housing will be created with these funds. A follow-up article speaking with the City of Kingston about this matter is expected in the coming days.