Richmond, B.C., seeks federal funding to house refugees crowding homeless shelters

RICHMOND — The City of Richmond in British Columbia is urging the federal government to provide more temporary housing for refugees and asylum seekers or pay for the use of city shelters, with the newcomers taking up about a third of all beds at one shelter last year.

Coun. Carol Day, whose motion proposing the request was passed unanimously by the council on Monday, says local residents experiencing homelessness have been denied shelter spaces because of the phenomenon.

She shared data provided by The Salvation Army about its Richmond House Emergency Shelter that shows refugees and asylum seekers made up 201 out of the 632 admissions last year, and in December made up 59 per cent of all admissions.

Day says a similar motion will also be presented to the Union of BC Municipalities in September.

She says the South Arm Outdoor Pool in the city has been housing homeless people in its changing rooms during the winter, but the city will revert the location to its regular function on April 15.

Day says many refugees and people claiming asylum don’t have accommodation, and taking care of them is a federal responsibility.

She is also calling for modular housing to be built specifically for refugees and asylum seekers next to the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond.

The closure of an unofficial crossing point for asylum seekers in Quebec last year temporarily slowed arrivals into Canada, but was followed by an increase in asylum claims by people arriving at airports.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March. 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press