A Call to Address the Worsening Housing Crisis in Ontario

The Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants Calls on All Levels of Government to Address the Worsening Housing Crisis in the Province and Its Impacts on Refugee Claimants and Precarious Migrants

The challenges related to securing and maintaining housing for residents in Ontario have significantly intensified over the past number of years. For refugee claimants, precarious migrants and newcomers arriving in the province, securing housing has shifted from an important settlement priority to the pre-eminent challenge. Difficulty in accessing and maintaining affordable housing has led to prolonged periods of homelessness and more severe levels of poverty among these groups, and the barriers to securing housing have adversely impacted other areas settlement and the overall wellbeing of refugee claimants across Ontario.

The agencies of the Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants are on the frontline when it comes to responding to the needs of refugee claimants and precarious migrants in Ontario. We, as service providers to refugees—many among us refugee houses and shelters—support and provide temporary housing for thousands of individuals and families each year as they navigate the refugee determination system and settle into communities across the province. In our work, we have witnessed the increasingly difficult challenges that refugee claimants face in securing housing.

Currently, there are several issues under the jurisdiction of different levels of government that contribute to the lack of access to housing for refugee claimants across Ontario, including:

  • Immigration delays: Many refugee claimants are waiting for extended periods for the scheduling of eligibility interviews by both the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). These upfront immigration processing delays lead to prolonged waits for work permits to be issued. Without work permit, refugee claimants cannot secure employment to assist with increased housing costs.
  • Social assistance rates: Ontario Works and ODSP levels have not kept pace with inflation and rising housing prices. A $390 monthly shelter allowance for a single person simply cannot secure safe, stable accommodations in Ontario’s housing market. This has forced refugee claimants and other social assistance recipients into using some or all of their basic needs allowance on housing, leaving them with inadequate resources for other essential needs.
  • Inadequate shelter capacity: The unliveable social assistance rates and immigration-related delays impact access to the income required to secure private market housing. This leaves many with no option but to rely on emergency and temporary housing, of which there simply is not enough capacity for refugee claimants arriving in Ontario. As a result, individuals and families end up sleeping in bus shelters, train stations, and other unsafe and precarious circumstances.

For the most part, the Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants is made up of small non-profit organizations. Already operating above capacity, our organizations are becoming increasingly overwhelmed as we work to triage increased demands for shelter, basic needs supports and settlement services for refugee claimants who are now arriving in the province after being unable to access safety and protection in Canada throughout much of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we will continue to keep our doors open to individuals and families, we need help. More needs to be done to ensure access to adequate shelter and housing for all those residing in the province who are in need, and all levels of government must do their part to ensure access to housing is provided. We are calling for the following two-pronged approach:

  • An immediate increase to emergency shelter and temporary housing capacity across the province to ensure that accommodations are available for newly arrived refugee claimants. These are individuals and families arriving in search of safety and protection, and we simply must not add to their suffering by refusing the fundamental human right for safe shelter.
  • Targeted investments to improve access to housing for refugee claimants so they can move into permanent accommodations more quickly after arrival:
    • Augmented service levels at CBSA and IRCC to ensure timely processing of refugee claims and work permit applications, improving access to income support programs and employment for newly arrived refugee claimants. Providing refugee claimants with the ability to move forward and contribute to the communities they live in benefits everyone.
    • A meaningful increase to monthly social assistance rates, particularly the shelter allowance rate provided by provincial social assistance programs (Ontario Works and ODSP) so that refugee claimants and all low-income individuals and families across the province can secure and maintain housing.
    • Timely access to housing benefits and financial support programs for refugee claimants and precarious migrants administered by all levels of governments.
    • A public education campaign regarding rental housing discrimination and better protections against exploitative practices.

We call on the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada and municipal governments across the province to acknowledge the barriers to housing that refugee claimants continue to face upon arrival in Ontario, and we ask you to take concrete steps to ensure access to housing for those who are seeking safety and protection in our province. All levels of government have a responsibility to do better, and we stand ready to work alongside government and community partners who are committed to doing their part to improve access to housing for the individuals and families we support.


The Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants

Member Agencies:

Adam House, Toronto
Angela Rose House, Windsor
Carty House, Ottawa
Casa El Norte, Fort Erie
Casa Maria Refugee Homes, Peterborough
Centre for Refugee Children, Toronto
Chez Marie, St. Catherines
Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, Toronto
COMPASS Refugee Centre, Kitchener
COSTI Immigrant Services, Toronto
FCJ Refugee Centre, Toronto
Fort Erie Multi-Cultural Centre, Fort Erie
IAFR Canada/Open Homes Hamilton
Matthew House, Fort Erie
Matthew House, Ottawa
Matthew House, Toronto
Matthew House, Windsor
Micah House, Hamilton
Quaker Refugee Committee, Toronto
Romero House, Toronto
Sojourn House, Toronto
The 519 Church Street Community Centre, Toronto
The Peoples House, Toronto

Our Winter Newsletter is ready!

Here is our Winter 2021-2022 Newsletter! Read it to discover what we have been up to and what we have planned for spring, find out about the upcoming events and programs happening at the FCJ Refugee Centre, and don’t miss a very special section on the FCJ Youth Network’s 10th Anniversary (many new activities and events!).

In this newsletter you’ll find information about our podcasts (Home is Here and Borderless Voices), the Uprooted U and Uprooted Junior programs, and our art, music and English classes, as well as updates about the Primary Care Clinic and the Food Distribution & Emergency Support, our thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day, and much more.

Click here to access the document if you can’t see it in this page.

Newsletter Winter 2021 2022


Registration for English Classes is Open

FCJ Refugee Centre continues to provide support to its clients through the English online classes.

The English Class program is free. Our program is focused on people who do not have access to ESL classes or who, due to their schedules, finds it difficult to enroll in school full time.

The courses are not official classes of English to a Second Language (ESL); they are alternative classes; which works thanks to the support of volunteers. They are usually retired professors or students who generously donate their time.

In order to be able to participate you will likely need a computer or a phone with internet connection to be able to join the classes.

Our program includes classes for Beginners and Intermediate levels. We send to the students an email every week with the link and the material that we will use in the class. The classes are through the Zoom platform.

We are very happy to be able to restart the English classes, many people have been asking about them.

You are welcome to register online through our website:


or by sending an email to


Stay tuned to our website and social networks for more information and updates.

“Canada should also accept non-Ukrainians fleeing the conflict”

“Canada should also accept non-Ukrainians fleeing the conflict” in Ukraine, said Diana Gallego, FCJ Refugee Centre Senior Director, on an interview this morning on CBC Radio program Metro Morning.

“The war and occupation in Ukraine is a tragedy for all humanity,” said Gallego. “In Ukraine there were already refugees living there, people already displaced by conflicts from the Middle East or Africa. Now, where are they going to run again? Who is going to protect them? Canada should open the door for them also,” she added.

Listen to the whole interview:


CCR on the Ukraine crisis: Displaced persons must be protected

People flee the military offensive in Ukraine at the Palanca-Maiaki-Udobnoe border crossing point, between Moldova and Ukraine, on 1 March 2022. Photo by Aurel Obreja / UN Women

A statement from the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) on the Ukraine crisis:

When people are forced to flee, as is currently the case in Ukraine, the fundamental right to seek refuge must be safeguarded – fully and without discrimination. We are concerned at reports that people from Africa and from Asia are facing barriers in fleeing to neighbouring countries.

People in Ukraine who are already refugees, including some who have applications for resettlement to Canada in process, are particularly vulnerable at this time of grave crisis. The Canadian government should take urgent measures to help those being resettled here to get to safety, including through issuing Temporary Resident Permits.

Less than a year after the Afghanistan crisis erupted, a new emergency has emerged in Ukraine. In between, the grave situation in Ethiopia has also had devastating impacts on refugees, although less remarked in Western media. We call on the Canadian government to develop a framework for immigration and refugee responses to emergencies, so that we are well-prepared to act quickly and equitably, based on objective criteria and following the needs identified by humanitarian agencies.

International Women’s Day 2022: Break The Bias

FCJ Refugee Centre Statement on International Women’s Day

For more than 30 years, the FCJ Refugee Centre has been commemorating the resiliency, bravery and strength of refugee and precarious migrant women on International Women’s Day. Moreover, on this day we remember our Centre’s founding which began by walking in solidarity with refugee and precarious migrant women. For the last 30 years, FCJ Refugee Centre has been a safe haven for women and their children.

As an organization we pause on this day to reflect on the steps and struggles made by all women in their fight for an equitable society. Furthermore, we reflect on the collective courage to denounce a Patriarchal society in which women were not, and in many places to this day are not recognized as persons. This is a day to mark the violations made on women’s rights in society, but also to commemorate the women who have been paving the road to emancipation. Additionally, on this day we honour refugee and precarious migrant women, who have made difficult journeys to a new country and who continue to overcome the barriers in building a new life in Canada. Although this is a day to celebrate all women, at FCJ Refugee Centre we also mark this as a day to continue raising awareness around the specific injustices faced by refugee and precarious migrant women.

Today, and every day, the FCJ Refugee Centre continues our call for action. On this International Women’s Day we call on all levels of government to acknowledge the valuable work conducted by refugee and precarious migrant women in Canada. We also call on the government to provide holistic and wrap around services to support refugee and precarious migrant women. Most importantly, we are making a call to the community to support and acknowledge the resiliency of refugee and precarious migrant women.

On this International Women’s Day, as refugee and precarious migrant women continue to break the bias of what it means to be a woman, we advocate that they are not left behind.

Loly Rico, Recipient of the YWCA – Toronto Women of Distinction Award

We are proud to announce that our executive director, Loly Rico, is one of the recipients of the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards 2022, in the category of Refugee Rights.

In a virtual event, the YWCA Toronto announced the names of eight women who will be recognized at the YWCA Toronto’s 41th Women of Distinction Awards Gala, next June.

This year, the recipients consists of Margaret Newall (President’s Award), Willa Black (Corporate Leadership), Asma Faizi (Professions), Toufah Jallow (Young Woman of Distinction), Deepa Mattoo (Advocacy & Women’s Rights), Cheryl Regehr (Education), Loly Rico (Refugee Rights) and Dr. Sharon Walmsley (Health).

About Loly Rico, The Women of Distinction Awards organizers say:

Loly Rico is a prominent advocate for refugee women in Toronto. After fleeing political oppression in El Salvador, Loly and her late partner founded what is now known as the FCJ Refugee Centre 31 years ago. Though she was originally trained as a physiotherapist, Loly’s personal migration experience exposed her to the vulnerabilities many refugee women and children face, and the urgent need for community programs to support healing and safety. Over the years, Loly and her partner expanded the Centre’s services, offering refugee women and families a variety of aids, including legal support, a primary health care clinic and support with social assistance. Loly was also fundamental in helping create an innovative program with York University that allows students without permanent status in Canada to enroll in post-secondary education without having to pay costly foreign student fees.

The Women of Distinction Awards is YWCA Toronto’s largest annual fundraising event. The proceeds from this event will make it possible for YWCA Toronto to provide essential programs that help women, girls and gender diverse people escape violence, access employment, move out of poverty and access safe, affordable housing.

Meditative Art Virtual Workshop: An Inspiring Session

The Migrant Women’s Counter Human Trafficking Alliance would like to thank artist Carolina Gajardo for facilitating a wonderful and inspiring art session on our Meditative Art Virtual Workshop.

A few comments from the participants who joined us:

Thanks for the first session of Meditative art through FCJ last Tuesday, we really enjoyed it, it was beautiful, energetic, and peaceful.

Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us!

Carolina is a wonderful, warm, encouraging teacher and I was amazed at how much could be conveyed by her and absorbed by us during an online session. This was a really magical hour we spent together and I felt very unified with the group even though we were physically separated. I did not know how it would be possible to do art therapy over Zoom, yet this was a beautiful and deeply enriching session.

Thank you all for joining this session and creating such beautiful art!

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