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March 28, 2003
Homelessness forum recommends new services for immigrants and refugees in Toronto
At the one-day forum "Living on the Ragged Edges: Immigrants, refugees and
homelessness in Toronto," researchers, professionals in the shelter and housing
fields and community stakeholders looked at services for homeless immigrants
and refugees. The forum included the release of three new research reports.

"Living on the Ragged Edges: Absolute and Hidden Homelessness Among Latin
Americans and Muslims in West Central Toronto" studied a wide range of factors
leading to homelessness, and presented many intriguing findings. For example,
when surveying to evaluate the effects of differing levels of education on
economic security and homelessness, the research suggested that immigrants and
refugees who were unskilled with low education fared better in the employment
area than did survey respondents who had university degrees and professional

The report also outlines many unique strategies for providing help to people
who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. One example is to provide "mobile
housing clinics," which feature housing-related workshops and referral services
issues delivered in the community, in the language people feel most comfortable
speaking. This research project was completed by the Informal Network Housing
Project (including the Islamic Social Services and Resources Association, the
Syme-Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre and Community Resources
Consultants of Toronto).

"Best Practices for Working with Homeless Immigrants and Refugees," prepared by
the Access Alliance Multicultural Community Health Centre, examined the use of
shelters and drop-in centres in Toronto by homeless immigrants and refugees.
The report documents how homeless services, especially shelters and drop-ins,
are currently unequipped to meet the needs of this population, and provides
several recommendations on housing, homelessness and access to services. The
report calls for consistent access to interpreter services to better meet the
language needs of immigrants and refugees, training of shelter and drop-in
staff on diversity issues and immigrant and refugee policy, and better
coordination of services between the shelter system, settlement agencies,
community legal clinics and community health centres.

The "First Contact Project," planned and developed by the Toronto Region
Canadian Red Cross and the City of Toronto's Refugee Housing Task Group (RHTG),
presents a systematic approach to mitigate homelessness among refugee
claimants. The project consists of two components. The research component,
completed in conjunction with the Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on
Immigration and Settlement (CERIS), identified the lack of knowledge of the
refugee determination process and services available to refugee claimants in
the City of Toronto as a major problem. The second component is a new service
designed to meet this ongoing information need. First Contact services include
a 24-hour telephone hotline, and a First Contact Drop-in Centre operating from
the Canadian Red Cross Downtown Community Office at 2 Homewood Avenue, which
serves as a point of congregation and a place to connect with a variety of

The "Living on the Ragged Edges" forum was funded in part by the Government of
Canada's National Homelessness Initiative and the City of Toronto. The forum
also received financial support from the Centre for Urban and Community
Studies, the University of Toronto.

Media Contact
Wilhelmina Peter, CERIS



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