Source: Wikimedia

As the City of Ottawa asks the Liberal government for an additional $32 million to house the growing surge of asylum seekers, new data shows half of the capital’s homeless shelters are occupied by new immigrants and refugee claimants.

In response to an inquiry by Coun. Allan Hubley, city officials revealed that as of Dec. 31, 2023, 47% of single adults in Ottawa’s homeless shelters were newcomers to Canada. 

“In 2023, Ottawa experienced unprecedented highs in the number of newcomers accessing our housing and homelessness support system,” the response reads. 

“As a result, the system is operating far above capacity creating resourcing issues impacting the ability to provide adequate services to integrate these newcomers into the community. The City is not funded for newcomer service delivery and therefore continues to rely on hotels, motels, post-secondary residences, and temporary COVID-era facilities to meet the excess demand.” 

The city’s single adult shelters have seen a 47% increase in new clients since last year with a 360% increase witnessed among newcomers. 

Additionally, Ottawa has 235 homeless families staying in hotels, motels and campus residences. 

Last week, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe called on the federal government to fund a welcoming centre for the growing asylum seeker population. 

“We’d love to hear from the federal government on funding for a welcoming centre for those individuals who are arriving in the city,” said Sutcliffe prior to the release of the federal budget. 

Ottawa has requested $12 million for the federal government in the form of capital costs and additionally requested $20.6 million for ongoing operations. 

The federal government has already sent Ottawa $5 million in the form of an “interim advance payment.” 

“Although this funding will help the City to address some of the funding shortfalls experienced throughout 2023 it does not provide the vital, ongoing, funding that is needed to support the long-term capital and operating requirements to house newcomers or migrants,” wrote city officials.