Peel secures temporary shelter for asylum claimants in Mississauga
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Peel secures temporary shelter for asylum claimants in Mississauga

To support the surge in asylum claimants looking for help through Peel’s emergency shelters—a wave that has pushed the already burdened system well past its breaking point—the Region has secured a new facility to bolster the services it can provide to these vulnerable individuals, many of whom have only recently arrived in the country and often have no place to stay or safety net to rely on. 

The new facility, a former office building located at 5100 Spectrum Way in Mississauga, is four storeys and nearly 74,000-square-feet according to real estate listings for the property. The Region is leasing the property on a 10-year term, with the possibility for extension, signalling the municipality knows the crisis is not a short-term problem, and will require long-term, dedicated resources. 

When asked by The Pointer for more details on how many people the Region will serve at the facility, whether it will be used as a temporary shelter space, and what services will be provided, a spokesperson from said staff are “unable to provide any additional information at this time.” The spokesperson did not confirm when the site will become operational, what costs associated with the site will be and where those funds will come from.

Spurred into action earlier this year by the startling financial hit Peel is absorbing to house asylum claimants in hotels, as well as the tragic deaths of two individuals outside Mississauga’s Dundas shelter, councillors began reviewing proposed property acquisition agreements to support the Region’s asylum claimant response. In March, Regional staff assured councillors and the public that work, including the creation of dedicated shelter facilities for asylum claimants, was underway. 

According to a report presented to council on June 13, during a March 21 closed session meeting, council approved an “offer to lease” agreement for the property at 5100 Spectrum Way in Mississauga to support asylum claimants. Under the agreement, the Mississauga-based facility would be leased by the Region for a term of 10 years, with the option to extend for two additional periods of five years each. 

Thursday’s report to regional councillors sought approval to designate the site as a “Municipal Capital Facility,” which exempts the building from property taxes until the lease is terminated or it is no longer being used as a municipal facility. 

The Regional report bills this as a cost savings of roughly $334,999, according to the 2023 tax assessment of the office building which is valued at $16,875,000. The report said staff are in the process of finalizing the lease.

It’s unclear why the Region considers tax relief as a savings when the exemption for the building means the Region of Peel will be receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars less in property taxes. 

Despite a lack of details available, the latest report builds on the Region’s efforts over the last year to provide emergency assistance to asylum claimants. In June 2023 when staff first started seeing growing rates of asylum seekers coming through its shelters for support, the Region began expanding its capacity, adding 123 beds and six overflow hotels, bringing its total to 11 — an approach that cost an additional $26.9 million in 2023. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) communications advisor Matthew Krupovich previously told The Pointer the IRCC would be reimbursing the Region $12.4 million, on top of the $10 million provided in December, bringing Peel’s total reimbursement under the Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP) to $22.4 million for 2023. According to Peel staff, this covered 95 percent of the $26.9 million spent by the Region last year — a number that is predicted to increase to $68 million this year, marking an exponential increase compared to the $2.5 million that was spent five years ago on emergency hotel space to accommodate those who could not be temporarily housed in shelters. 

To free up spaces in Peel’s shelter system and reduce reliance on overflow hotels, the Region has been transitioning to dorm-style facilities for housing asylum claimants. Peel opened a dorm-style temporary shelter site specifically for asylum claimants in December where it has been operating on a “day to day vacancy,” according to Peel’s former commissioner of human services Sean Baird, who revealed that by mid-January, the facility was already operating at 100 percent occupancy. It opened up 228 additional beds for asylum claimants. 

But despite efforts to allocate additional funding and secure more shelter spaces, the Region has failed to keep up with an issue that has long been overlooked by Peel’s elected officials. 


Several staff reports to the Region in the last year have highlighted how overburdened Peel’s emergency shelter system has become, with a growing number of asylum seekers needing support.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)


Reports from the Region in the spring revealed asylum claimant households account for 67 percent of occupants in Peel’s shelter system (updated numbers have not been made available). It marked a slight decrease from the 72 percent reported in February. 

The acute problem was tragically illustrated over a three-month period recently, when two deaths were reported by the Region, both outside Mississauga’s Dundas Shelter.

The Region acknowledged its “no turn away” policy was not sustainable. Staff admitted last July the Region had to break from the policy as capacity issues continued to worsen inside its shelters. That was before staff reported in February that Peel’s shelters were operating at 400 percent above capacity, with even more people being turned away. 

In March, staff initiated the development of a new model for operating and improving Peel’s shelter system, built around two main components: the establishment of a permanent regional reception centre near Pearson International Airport, with connections to other municipalities; and the creation of dedicated shelter facilities specifically for asylum claimants. At the time, staff cautioned that opening a centre without guaranteed funding from upper levels of government would be “too risky” and “inappropriate” and recommended against opening the Centre until funding was secured. Peel estimated supporting 1,280 asylum claimants per month would cost $69,135 per person served and $61,835 for each individual referred to other municipalities from the regional reception centre.

Ths Region’s budget for housing shelter claimants in hotels has soared, with the overflow hotel budget increasing to nearly 20 times what it was just five years ago, staff revealed in the fall. The financial weight of supporting the influx recently forced Peel to create an encampment policy that staff say “will incorporate a human rights-based approach” to address the severity of the issue. 

A report presented to council in May cautioned that “For the foreseeable future, the Region will not be able to find or provide enough suitable affordable and/or supportive housing solutions for all unhoused people in Peel.”  

Peel staff have warned the Region can not move forward with many of these new operations without 100 percent funding from upper levels of government.


Regional staff have repeatedly warned in recent months that Peel can not bear the financial burden of supporting the increase in asylum claimants on its own and have called upon upper levels of government for support.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files) 


Council approved a recommendation in March to allow staff to negotiate with all levels of government for the adoption of the Region’s latest asylum claimant response — built around the reception centre and the creation of dedicated shelter facilities — and that it be 100 percent funded between the provincial and federal government. The proposed funding model was based on the belief that such supports “are the shared responsibility of the federal and provincial governments.”

The report warned that if Peel “does not receive the appropriate level of funding from the federal and provincial governments,” the Region “may need to limit its response, which could result in more street homelessness and encampments, and negatively impact or stall an asylum claimant’s settlement journey.”

The Region is seeking further assistance from the federal government to help fund these critical programs. 

On Tuesday, a spokesperson confirmed to The Pointer that Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada has received a claim from the Region of Peel under the Interim Housing Assistance Program for asylum-related interim housing costs incurred between January and March. The spokesperson said IRCC is in the process of finalizing Peel’s claim for the first quarter of 2024 expenses. “We anticipate completing the payment process in the coming weeks.” In April, the federal government rolled out a series of housing investments as part of its 2024 budget, including allocating an additional $1.1 billion over three years to extend the IHAP funding and assist municipalities in supporting the increasing number of asylum seekers. 

“To ensure that federal funding builds on investments from partners, IHAP funding in 2026-27 will be conditional on provincial and municipal investments in permanent transitional housing solutions for asylum claimants and we will be working closely with partners, including Peel, to transition from an emergency response to building longer-term temporary housing for asylum claimants and help this population access the services they need through sustainable models,” the spokesperson explained. 



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Twitter: @mcpaigepeacock

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