In the wake of new studies reporting a rising number of refugees in Canada are finding themselves homeless a Montreal homeless shelter is calling on the all levels of government to more to help.
“Let’s face it, homeless shelters were not set up or intended to be a place to properly accommodate people who are looking for a new home,” said Old Brewery Mission President and CEO Matthew Pearce.
According to two reports released this week by Employment and Social Development Canada, there has been an “observable increase” in refugees using homeless shelters as of 2016. In 2016, there were 2,000 refugees sleeping in shelters across Canada, double the number from two years before.
Pearce said one reason is a lack of affordable housing, with social welfare cheques often not enough to secure long-term accommodations.
“The rents are so high and the amount of these cheques are low, especially for single people,” said Centre for Social Aid for Immigrants CEO Lida Aghasi. “It’s a difficult situation for them to find a place to move.”
Aghasi said the problem isn’t as bad in Montreal as in Toronto or Vancouver but Pearce said there are still close to two dozen refugees staying in the Old Brewery Mission. He said the mission lacks the ability to provide skills to help them adapt to their new country.
“There’s a whole dimension relating to cultural sensitivity, language skills and so on toe help someone feel that they’ve found a safe haven in the country they’ve now adopted,” he said.
He added that while there are organizations that do provide those tools, the municipal, provincial and federal governments should be doing more.
“If they’re admitting immigrants and refugees, they should have the infrastructure in place to adequately deal with them without resorting to homeless shelters,” he said.
Aghasi agreed, saying much of the responsibility rests in Ottawa.
“While they are here, they have to be able to live decently,” she said. “We have to provide better care and better services for them. I think this is, first of all, the responsibility of the federal government.”