Shelter, Support & Housing Administration

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Shelter, Support & Housing Administration

Tel: 416-397-7523

Immigrant and Refugee Housing Committee

May 26th, 2016

Metro Hall, Room 303

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm


Dan Anstett (Seaton House)

Muneer Jam Ahmed (East York/East Toronto Family Resources)

Nicole Baptiste (City – SSHA)

Rosario Barahona (City of Toronto)

Karen Barnett (City of Toronto)

Alaka Brahma (Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office)

Katja Brittain (Roofs for Refugees)

Morena Carranza (West Toronto Community Legal Services)

Amanda Choo (Woodgreen Community Services)

Isaac Fonesca (COSTI Immigrant Services)

Bob Murdie (York University)

Aysha Dawood (City of Toronto)

Noelia Delgado (Christie Refugee Welcome Centre)

Yasmine Dossal (COSTI Immigrant Services)

Azar Farahani (City - SSHA)

Meaghan Fortner (East York/East Toronto)

Edyta Gilligan (SSHA)

Lester Korbely (Multilingual Community Interpreter Services)

Melanie Kim (University of Toronto)

Maria Lopez (YMCA of Greater Toronto)

Hanna Mlodzianowska (COSTI Immigrant Services)

Dhruba Neupane (Canadian Red Cross Scarborough)

Emily Paradis (University of Toronto)

Lamoussenerie Pascale (Centre Francophone de Toronto Metropolitan)

Rocco Sebastian (St. Stephen's Community House)

Tracey Serenano (Robertson House)

Tatiana Simonova (Catholic Cross-Cultural Services)

Ambi Sinathambu, Housing Help Centre

Jean Suh (Canadian Red Cross Society, Toronto Region)

Carolina Teves (FCJ Refugee Centre)

Michel Tseramis (TESS)

Sergul Topkara-Sarsu (Woodgreen community Services)

Jani Trindade (West Neighbourhood House)

Yusra Uzair (Roofs for Refugees)

Nicole Watson (City of Toronto

Zhang Zhiguang (Toronto Public Health)

Elis Ziegler (Toronto Drop-in Network)

  1. Welcome and Introductions, Review of Agenda and Minutes

Azar welcomed the participants. After a round of introductions, the Minutes and Agenda were approved as presented.
2. City of Toronto's Refugee Resettlement Program update – Nicole Watson
Toronto Newcomer Office

  • 4,342 Syrian refugees settled in Toronto to date

  • Majority are now in long-term settlement phase

  • 1,150 private sponsors by end of 2016-2017

  • COSTI has confirmed that they will process an additional 1,000 government assisted refugees

Welcome Fund

  • The Welcome Fund Program is a partnership between the City of Toronto, Community Foundations of Canada, Toronto Foundation and COSTI.

  • The Welcome Fund was seeded by Manulife, and augmented by CN’s historic $5 million donation, as well as by generous support from GM. Toronto is earmarked to receive $750,000.00.

  • The partners are currently working to build a network of landlords to be involved in the program. Funds will be paid directly to participating landlords.

  • More information is available at

  • This will serve a platform to further the discussions about the need for affordable housing


The City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants are launching a public education campaign to address xenophobia, islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments in June. The campaign is entitled #TorontoForAll.

3. Toronto Newcomer Day, City of Toronto Newcomer Office, Nishanthini (Nisha) Nagaratnam

  • This 2nd annual event was participated by 5,000-7,000 people

  • Over 15 ESL programs were represented

  • There was a popular "speakers' corner" where participants were asked to describe Toronto (Canada) in one word.

  • There was an Information Fair – where 25 agencies from across the city were represented.

  • Sponsors were included Metro-land and Tim Horton's

4. Update on Syrian Government Sponsored Refugees, COSTI, Yasmine Dossal and Hanna Mlodzianowska

  • Syrian Government Sponsored Refugees in Toronto were assisted by COSTI

  • Toronto Plaza Hotel was the largest site for housing the refugees

  • The average family consisted of 8 people

  • Start-up funds are provided

  • Refugees need to be in contact with an immigration officer in order to receive assistance and they are required to sign a financial agreement.

  • Services can be accessed through hotels and reception centres


  • There was some misinformation provided to the refugees by some volunteers and others

  • Volunteers had to be educated about the federal RAP program

  • Extensive co-ordination was required to manage the large volume of volunteers

  • Some refugees had literacy barriers, which curtailed efforts to translate information into their language

  • The media wanted access to the refugees to hear their stories. This had to be balanced with the agency's responsibility to protect their clients.


  • Built relationships with approximately 40 landlords

  • Some landlords were willing to take whatever families could afford

  • Four hundred and thirty families were housed in 5 months

  • A number of government assisted refugees are eligible for the rent supplement funds

  • COSTI administers the funds and assess eligibility of the families

  • Refugees accessing the program coming from outside the City of Toronto are considered secondary migrants. They must be within the first year window in order to qualify for the rent supplement program.

  • There is a Welcome Fund that can be accessed through Community Foundations of Canada.

4. Legal Assistance for Tenants at Landlord and Tenant Board, University of Toronto, Emily Paradis

  • ACTO-Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) is conducting a review of its Tenant Duty Council Program. Tennant feedback in being captured through surveys as well as community focus groups.

  • The Tenant Duty Counsel Program (TDCP) is a program of ACTO and is funded by Legal Aid Ontario. The TDCP offers legal advice to eligible tenants appearing before the Landlord & Tenant Board (LTB) across Ontario. Complex issues are referred to legal clinics

  • The program is a drop-in service and operates through 4 sites:

Toronto South Toronto North

Mississauga Scarborough

ACTO – Issues Arising:

  • Only 10-15% of tenants are aware of Duty Counsel Service.

  • High volumes of people are coming before the Landlord and Tenants Board, unaware of their rights.

  • Duty counsel gets involved with last minute requests from clients – therefore, there is not enough time to prepare.


  • Increase publicity of service through flyers i.e. through Housing Help Centres.

  • Distribute information at the frontline level.

  • Provide more detailed explanations on the role of duty counsel and tenants' rights.

  • Lack of awareness of drop-in feature of Duty Counsel – needs to be better advertised.

Further ideas or comments can be directed to Emily. Azar will follow-up with Emily regarding the outcome of review and circulate to the members.

Emily contact:

5. Habitat for Humanity GTA and its Volunteer Programs, Heather Saba

The following are highlights from the presentation:

Habitat for Humanity:

  • Works with volunteers and community partners to provide low income families obtain affordable homeownership.

  • Volunteer opportunities are available through various Build Sites as well as the ReStore.

  • Participants who are 14-15 years of age must have a waiver signed by parent/guardian.

  • Minimum shifts of 4 hours.

  • Members are invited to contact Heather at for more information

6. Roofs for Refugees, Toronto team, Yusra Uzair

Here are the highlights from the presentation:

  • A similar initiative is being launched in Toronto on June 28th, 2016.

  • The mission is to provide affordable housing for refugees. Housing providers can advertise in a safe environment.

  • The process is secure and participants are vetted.

  • The long-term objective is to highlight specific needs of refugees.

  • Seeking partnerships in Toronto, London, Ottawa and will work to enhance what is already in place rather than compete.


  • The approach will be very proactive – with direct matching.

  • This will be a collective effort with volunteers, landlords, and community partners.

  • Online applications will be reviewed by co-ordinators and matched with offers in database.

  • They will work with settlement agencies to ensure compliance with applications are met.

  • This will make the housing process more linear.


  • Housing workers are encouraged to access services.

  • Circulate housing list to partners and increase matches.

  • Increase volunteer catchment.

Toronto Vision:

  • A tool for all refugees that come in.

  • A means of increasing housing network and database.

  • This is a completely volunteer-based service which is free.

Azar invited presenters to attend the next meeting on July 21st, in which Service Canada and Furniture Bank will be attending. This will be a good contact resource for them.

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