Living on the Ragged Edges - Immigrants, refugees and homelessness in Toronto - Forum Summary

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This forum, held in Toronto on March 28, 2003, provided a unique opportunity for researchers, service providers and community activists to address the various factors that help or hinder immigrants, refugees and racially marginalized diasporic communities in gaining access to and maintaining housing in Toronto. The forum offered an opportunity to learn more about the research that has been undertaken and the policies and programs that have been suggested to reduce the risk of homelessness among these groups. The forum also helped define additional research that is needed in this area.

The forum addressed three primary topics:

  1. Issues of access and equity in housing
  2. The specific effects of barriers such as race, class, gender, sexuality, religion and mental health status on housing opportunities
  3. Recommendations from current research that are designed to improve policies, programs and practices.

About 170 service providers, past and present service users, academics, and representatives of the City of Toronto’s housing and social services departments attended the forum. In addition to presentations from leading experts in the field, the forum provided an opportunity to highlight the findings of several recent research reports. These reports provide statistical evidence of the challenges immigrants and refugees face in accessing good quality and affordable housing in Toronto and also give voice to the housing experiences of immigrants and refugees.

A number of recommendations were offered by speakers at the plenary sessions and the workshops. These are summarised in the document as key recommendations.

They include general recommendations such as:

  • the implementation of a national housing strategy
  • the appointment of a homelessness facilitator
  • and the removal of systemic barriers to housing and other societal needs, all of which have been on the public agenda for some time.

It is important to reiterate these and reinforce the work of advocacy groups in keeping them at the forefront of public debate. Other recommendations are more specific. These include a variety of issues related to service delivery and to the needs of particular groups including women, refugee claimants and immigrant and refugee youth. Most of the recommendations are related to policy prescription, but a few also concern research needs. The bias towards policy is understandable given the clear desire at the forum to implement change.

This document is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (615 KB, 67 pages).