TORONTO — Revivaltime Tabernacle, a church that has taken in several hundred recent asylum seekers over the past few months in response to the shelter space crisis in Toronto, said it will no longer be open as a refuge.
Pastor Judith James says new asylum seekers in Canada have not been accommodated at the church since Thursday and previously postponed church services will resume.
She says the 230 asylum seekers housed at the church have been moved to a temporary hotel or municipal shelter under an agreement with the City of Toronto.
Revivaltime Tabernacle, a Christian and primarily African-Canadian church in the Downsview area of Toronto, had housed nearly 700 people in side-by-side beds spread across large basement presentation and Sunday school rooms since July.
Toronto has seen an increased influx of asylum seekers, which has challenged its shelter system.
In the 20 months to May, the number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the city has increased by 500%, from a low of 530 people per day in September 2021 to more than 2,800 per day.
Jennifer McKelvie, then deputy mayor, said the city’s shelters were at capacity and announced on May 31 that without an additional $97 million from Ottawa, municipal shelters in Toronto would no longer accept asylum seekers. .
James says his church was the response to an “emergency crisis” following the closure of shelters in the city. Revivaltime Tabernacle, Dominion Church International of North York, Pilgrim Feast Tabernacles of Etobicoke and Community Centers in the Greater Toronto Area then took it upon themselves to offer free shelter in their buildings, Airbnbs and rented residential units of their poached. Some asylum seekers slept outside near the town’s accommodation centre.
Toronto received $97 million in additional federal funding on July 18, which McKelvie said was needed to maintain dedicated housing services for asylum seekers.
Dominion Church International has yet to announce an expected end date for its lodging service, and James says Pilgrim Feast Tabernacles will continue to operate as a “welcome respite center” where newcomers to Canada can receive immigration advice and support.
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