Jani Trindade (West Neighbourhood Group (formerly St. Christopher House)
Carolina Teves (FCJ Refugee Centre)
Alejandra Ruiz Vargas (Fred Victor)
Nicole Watson (Toronto Newcomer Office)
Yodit Wendim (West Toronto Community Legal Services)
Ronny Yaron (Researcher)
Welcome and Introductions, Review of Agenda and Minutes
Alaka welcomed the participants. After a round of introduction, Minutes and Agenda were approved with a minor change West Neighbourhood Group should be changed to West Neighbourhood House.
2. City of Toronto's Refugee Resettlement Program update – Nicole Watson The Federal Government committed to resettle 10,000 refugees from Syria by the end of 2015 and an additional 15,000 by the end of February 2016. This means 25,000 Syrian refugees will arrive in Canada by the end of February 2016, with further arrivals continuing throughout the year.
Flights arrive daily and data is constantly being updated by Immigrant, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Update as of January 27, 2016:
14,329 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 4th. 6,275 refugee resettlement applications have been finalized, but have not travelled yet. Further 14,816 refugee resettlement applications are in process. 33 chartered flights have arrived at the Toronto port of entry (Pearson Airport) carrying over 2, 400 refugees destined to Toronto.
Program Information In October 2015, Toronto City Council approved the City of Toronto Refugee Resettlement Program. The Toronto Newcomer Office (TNO) has been coordinating City divisions and partners to implement the Program.
In December 2015, City Council named Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina) and Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21 St. Paul's) Newcomer Advocates to help promote the integration and inclusion of refugees in the civic, economic and cultural life of the city.
Key Program Updates: Website The City of Toronto has launched toronto.ca/refugees a webpage for sponsors and potential sponsors that highlights settlement supports available throughout the City. The website is updated on an ongoing basis.
Information Fairs The City of Toronto organized information fairs for sponsors across Toronto with a reach of over 1,000 sponsors to date. Four fairs have taken place, one in each of the following locations: Downtown Toronto, Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke. A fifth information fair is scheduled for evening of April 7th at Metro Hall. These fair sessions have been organized in collaboration with OCASI and the four quadrant Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) in Toronto.
A Welcome package has been developed for sponsors of Syrian refugees with a welcome letter from the Mayor and a newcomer welcome brochure on available City services, available in English and Arabic.
Committee Meetings The Inter-Divisional Team (made up of senior representatives from City divisions) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (made up of community partners) continue to meet every two weeks to ensure the mobilization of internal/external supports.
Housing Registry H.O.M.E (Housing Opportunities and Marketplace Exchange) is an online portal which allows both businesses and individuals to post available housing, as well as goods and services they wish to donate, to help Syrian refugees arriving in Toronto. The City of Toronto contracted WoodGreen Community Services to develop the portal. It can be accessed online under "Housing" at toronto.ca/refugees.
Hotels COSTI Immigrant Services and City divisions coordinating support to implement programming for government-assisted refugees currently staying at hotels. Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Children's Service and Toronto Public Health have been involved in this work.
Agency Contracts City has entered into service agreements with the Arab Community Centre, Catholic Cross-cultural Services and Lifeline Syria, to enhance their capacity to provide supports to private sponsors in Toronto. COSTI Immigrant Services was contracted to enhance their capacity to provide housing help services to private sponsors, and Woodgreen Community Services was contracted to provide housing help services to private sponsors and develop an online housing registry.
Public Education City is partnering with OCASI (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants) to develop and implement a public awareness campaign against racism, violence and intolerance.
Demographic Profile There is a significant difference between Government Assisted Refugee (GAR) and Private Sponsor Refugees (PSR): government assisted refugees tend to have larger family sizes, including a high proportion of children, lower official language skills and lower education levels than private sponsor refugees.
Settlement efforts will need to prepare for the large number of children as nearly 60% of GARs are 14 years old or younger.
GARs have larger family sizes than PSRs; the majority have 5 to 8 persons per application (53%); some families have 10 to 14 persons. In contrast PSRs are more likely to arrive as single applicants.
3. H.O.M.E. online portal, WoodGreen Community Services Mehran Mehrdadi and Maisie Lo
The project is funded by the City of Toronto. Two WoodGreen staff members are managing the system. The portal is designed for various types of visitors including sponsors, donors, housing providers, and service agencies. Visitors can select an option on Home page and get log-in assistance. Once visitors are logged-in, they will be contacted for verification. WoodGreen staff will confirm their ID by asking visitors of their 8 digit number and their birth date.
A number of the landlords joined the program are supporting refugees by not asking deposit or the first and last month rent, and several are helping by renting a 3 bedroom apt for only $500. Most of the government sponsored refugees are in hotels and some are in other location arranged by the federal government.
For further information, please visit the HOME portal on: http://www.woodgreen.org/homeportal.aspx
Other services to Syrian Refugees:
A member from MCIS Language Services added that approx. 75 interpreters are available to new arrivals of the refugee at the airport every time the plains arrive in Toronto and Montreal. Settlement services are done by various settlement and community agencies.
MCIS Language Services is providing free Arabic classes. The next meeting for the Coalition is on February 2, 2016 if anyone wants to attend.
COSTIImmigrant Services has translated the Rights and Responsibility for tenants in Arabic.
4. Coalition of Service Providers, Toronto Chapter and TRAC, FCJ Refugee Centre, Carolina Teves
Carolina gave a summary of the objectives of this project funded by the City of Toronto including developing strategies on how to respond to the shelter/housing demand in the city of Toronto. The Coalition will discuss the emergency situations that may arise in the coming months (particularly with the large number of Syrian refugee expected); and spark dialogues on how these changes will impact the settlement sector at large.
The Coalition will identify the steps to follow on shelter/housing emergency situations and to connect with other housing networks that can support with other initiatives related to housing. Coalition is interested to develop strategy to work with City stakeholders (including Central Intake) to better meet the housing needs of precarious migrant populations.
The Coalition works with TRAC to identify appropriate and holistic housing response for detained populations and to support development of a process for releasing the detained immigrants at the Detention Centre.
Carolina gave an update of the Coalition activities and invited interested service providers to join.