Most of the homeless refugee claimants staying at the Toronto Plaza Hotel are staying at the hotel for six-month stays before moving on to find permanent housing, says an employee working at the hotel.
Last week a meeting was held at the hotel to go over garbage disposal and other rules of the building because a new wave of asylum seekers moved into the hotel recently.
As exclusively reported by True North, some refugee claimants are purposefully staying within the Toronto shelter system for over six months so they can gain eligibility to a housing allowance that helps pay their rent for up to four years. Another True North investigation revealed that the homeless shelter system is a tiered system, with many asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally into Canada getting better accommodations than the native homeless population.
The Plaza Hotel in North York is a 199-room hotel near the connection of Highways 400 and 401. It’s still fully occupied with around 500 asylum seekers, many of whom are new arrivals. Most of the asylum seekers living at the Plaza are from Africa, predominantly Nigeria, but there are also Mexicans, Romani people from Europe and Middle Easterners currently living there.
At the beginning of March CBC reported the Plaza was bought by a private developer. The new owner has plans to redevelop the property as a mixed-use development.
The cost per room per night was a discounted rate of $50 under the previous deal with the old owner. (The hotel also offers the homeless staying there food and cleaning services.) Since 2017 the City has spent over $5 million on housing and feeding the homeless staying at the Plaza. The hotel has also had a series of renovations over the past year.
It’s unclear if the costs have gone up for the City under the new owner. The City is currently renewing a monthly contract, so it’s uncertain how much longer refugee claimants will be able to live at the Plaza.
“There may be some adjustments to price, but we’re working with the new owner to stay within our planned budget,” says Toronto shelter support spokesperson Greg Seraganian.
“The City is not aware of any imminent plans for the closure of the building or for a change in services from those currently being offered to the families staying in the hotel. If such a closure were to happen, the City does have contingency plans in place to address this, however, we do not anticipate this in the short term,”said Seraganian.
“I can’t even fathom what they’ll do with an extra 500 people,” said shelter outreach coordinator Greg Cook to CBC at the beginning of March about the possibility of the homeless people staying at the Plaza being moved out, which would add even more of a strain to an already overburdened shelter system.
Last November the City of Toronto was trying to buy the rundown Plaza (35 rooms were closed due to mould problems) to add to the city’s space in its shelter system. The City’s shelter system has been facing a crisis because of the wave of tens of thousands of refugee claimants migrating to Toronto in the past two years.
Both the Plaza and the Radisson Hotel Toronto East have been closed off to the public in order to house the influx of asylum seekers.
There are over 100,000 people waiting for affordable housing units in Toronto.