Another church in the Greater Toronto Area is calling on multiple levels of government to do more to help house asylum seekers.
On Monday, Miracle Arena Canada, based in Vaughan, Ont., held a press conference where church leaders said the organization has exhausted its resources to make sure people aren't sleeping on the street.
The church has converted buses and tractor trailers into temporary shelters because the situation was dire and immediate solutions were needed, said Isaac Oppong, a minister. The church has also helped people find shelter in dorms at Durham College and other places, he added.
"These things are quite possible to do and we're doing it on our level. So we can only imagine what can be done on the provincial and on the federal level if action is taken immediately," he said.
Inside one of the buses Miracle Arena Canada is using to house refugees who have nowhere to go. (Martin Trainor/CBC)
Miracle Arena is not the only church sounding the alarm. Last Thursday, asylum seekers who have been living at Pilgrim Feast Tabernacles in Etobicoke staged a protest outside Premier Doug Ford's constituency office at 823 Albion Road.
Multiple churches sound alarm
Nadine Miller, a director with Pilgrim Feast, says its been housing about 150 people and neglecting bills to pay for their food. While immigration policies are a federal responsibility, Miller and the church is calling on all levels of government to work together on a solution.
"We need them, from the local level in Ontario to the federal government, to sit down and come up with a way that the refugees that are sleeping in the churches can be moved, can be housed," she said.
Multiple churches have stepped up to help asylum seekers who had been sleeping on city sidewalks outside a homeless support centre at 129 Peter Street downtown as the city and federal government went back and forth over shelter funding. On Friday, Mayor Olivia Chow said the city has provided three churches with $50,000 to help offset costs of housing refugees.
Refugees and asylum seekers sleeping in a Toronto church protested outside Premier Doug Ford's constituency office on Thursday. (CBC)
Ford addressed the situation during a media availability on Friday.
"I have people in my own riding, as you've heard, asylum seekers, new refugees, coming here [and] sleeping in church's basements, sleeping in an old TD Bank. That's unacceptable," Ford said. "We need to continue to build homes."
Half of people coming to Toronto shelters are refugees: mayor
Chow said the city is housing about 10,000 people in its shelter system, around 3,300 of them are newcomers.
"Half the people coming to shelters are refugees," Chow said.
Throughout the summer, Chow has been calling on the federal government to supply more money to help address the situation.
In July, the federal government announced that asylum seekers would be given a one-time injection of about $212 million, with $97 million for Toronto, into the Interim Housing Assistance Program.
In a statement to CBC Toronto, a spokesperson for Immigration Canada said in order to address the "global migration crisis" full engagement from every level of government is needed.
"There is no simple solution but we are confident that, with everyone at the table, we can implement long-term, sustainable, and compassionate measures that will ensure that the most vulnerable newcomers have a roof over their heads," spokesperson Matthew Krupovich said in an email.
Beatrice Wathira was one of the asylum seekers protesting outside Ford's office this week. She says she had to flee Kenya because her life was in danger.
Beatrice Wathira said she came to Canada because she knew the federal government would help people in need. (CBC)
"I had been reading about Canada and I know it's a good country, where [the] government can take care of the person who is in need of being protected," said Wathira, who used to be employed operating heavy machinery on construction sites and hopes to do the same here.
A report published in June by CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal found there are at least 80,000 vacancies in the construction industry nationwide. But before Wathira could help fill one, she's calling on the government to help her find somewhere to live.
Miller is worried that the coming change in seasons will only make things worse.
"Winter is coming. If these people are not acclimatized and educated and into homes right now, I believe that we will lose some of their lives," she said.