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Asylum claimants occupying 12% of London’s homeless shelter beds

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In the midst of a homelessness crisis, an influx of asylum seekers is putting additional pressure on London, Ont.’s limited number of permanent shelter beds.

A report to council’s Community and Protective Services (CAPS) Committee attempts to quantify the financial impact on the city’s shelter system.

According to a municipal database, between May 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024 there were 123 individual asylum claimants who spent a total of 11,073 nights in emergency shelter beds — 11.9 per cent of the city’s capacity.

The actual number of asylum seekers in shelters is likely even higher.

The report acknowledges limitations in the data because some people may not disclose their personal information and others may be accessing shelters that do not utilize the database.

At an average cost of $96.66 per night, shelter costs have exceeded $1 million.

An additional $31,500 has been spent on hotel and motel rooms for families waiting for space to become available at Rotholme Family Shelter.

“We need to find compassionate solutions to these issues,” said Coun. Corrine Rahman. “We’re a caring community. We’re a community that wants to do right by people, and in order for us to do that, we have to have the resources to do so.”

Last November, council directed Civic Administration to apply for funding from the federal government’s Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP) — but the city’s eligibility remains unknown.

The report to the CAPS Committee aims to better quantify the local need.

“The impacts of the limited emergency shelter spaces have had a direct effect on asylum claimants in our community being turned away from emergency shelters and forcing many to live unsheltered,” reads the report.

Civic Administration said that the situation has “increased desperation in [the] community for those living unsheltered and increased the demand for basic needs services supporting those living unsheltered.”

Five agencies provide 306 emergency shelter beds in London.

Last spring, asylum claimants began arriving after being unable to secure a bed in communities where they entered Canada.

Most local shelters are not equipped to meet the unique needs of asylum seekers including language interpretation, cultural sensitivity training and mental health counselling.

Rahman added, “We are seeking every opportunity to find funding available from other levels of government to support the work we’re doing here in our community to house those that are unhoused.”

The CAPS Committee will consider the report at its meeting on Monday. 

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