(This article was originally published in John's June 24 Newsletter)
Just as I was finishing this newsletter, I learned that Willowdale will have an opportunity, in the very near future, to welcome a large number of refugee families to Canada. In a report released today and going to the General Government and Licensing Committee July 4, the City is proposing to convert the Novotel at Yonge and Park Home into much-needed housing for families, typically consisting of a mother and several children escaping dangerous conditions in their home countries.
A few years ago, when the Willowdale Welcome Centre at 5800 Yonge St. became a temporary home for single refugee claimants, a large number of residents and organizations pitched in to offer help. Many success stories emerged from that site, with the temporary support there allowing many residents to find employment and permanent housing within a few months of their arrival.
During Covid, the number of individuals seeking refugee status in Canada dropped dramatically but is now back up - from 507 needing accommodation from the City in September 2021 to 1677 on June 19. Many are children who have made it to Canada with their mothers, fleeing dangerous conditions and oppression in other parts of the world.
Over the next few weeks, I will be spending a great deal of time meeting with city staff, outside agencies, community organizations, school board staff and many others to not only make sure that the children have stable housing but that they and their mothers have all the support they need to succeed in a new country.
It is hoped that families currently in unstable housing conditions will be able to start moving in around September 1. Initially, at least, it is not expected that the families will be from Ukraine because those families are currently housed close to the airport while both the federal and local governments seek to find housing for them.
I'll have more information for you in my next newsletter. In the meantime, any offers of support are most welcome.