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Canada Former Toronto Hydro building becomes refugee shelter, thanks to Iranian-Canadian immigrants

09:45  13 november  2019
09:45  13 november  2019 Source:   globalnews.ca

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1:58 Former Toronto Hydro building opens as refugee centre. The first and only city-run refugee shelter in Toronto successfully opened its doors Tuesday, with about 20 refugees climbing off a bus and dropping their heavy luggage in their new temporary space — all thanks to Iranian - Canadian

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 Former Toronto Hydro building becomes refugee shelter | Small Question The large, multi-room facility on Yonge Street is

a large white building: The group purchased an 80,000-square-foot former Toronto Hydro building on Yonge Street, north of Finch Avenue, for $122.5 million in early 2018. © Kamil Karamali / Global News The group purchased an 80,000-square-foot former Toronto Hydro building on Yonge Street, north of Finch Avenue, for $122.5 million in early 2018.

The first and only city-run refugee shelter in Toronto successfully opened its doors Tuesday, with about 20 refugees climbing off a bus and dropping their heavy luggage in their new temporary space — all thanks to Iranian-Canadian immigrants who dished out millions to purchase the former Toronto Hydro building for the cause.

"We wanted to give back to the community because we, as immigrants ourselves, we know the struggles they have when they come to a new country," said Hamid Ghadaki.

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Two immigrants who escaped war-torn Iran have purchased a former Toronto Hydro building and have now opened a refugee centre inside. Former Toronto Hydro building becomes refugee shelter , thanks to Iranian - Canadian immigrants .

Hamid and his first cousin, Hessam Ghadaki, are part of four families who escaped war-torn Iran in the 1980s and founded the development company, Times Group Corporation, in Canada.

READ MORE: 40% of those in Toronto shelter system are refugees or asylum seekers, new report says

"I was in Grade 3 when I was in Iran and there was a war going on at the time, so I missed most of Grade 3 because schools were closed and then I was put into the Canadian system here," said Hamid.

"It was difficult for me in a way. I didn't know the language, I didn't know anyone at the school, so coming to a new country can be difficult."

A couple of decades and many development projects later, the group purchased an 80,000-square-foot former Toronto Hydro building on Yonge Street, north of Finch Avenue, for $122.5 million in early 2018.

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Refugee Shelter . Former Toronto Hydro building becomes refugee shelter , thanks to Iranian - Canadian immigrants . The large, multi-room facility on Yonge Street is expected to house more than 200 people.

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Members of the family-run company contemplated what to do with the massive space until they saw a sign — literally.

"It was a couple of months later we saw a notice from the city that they were looking for shelter space to house refugees and newcomers, so we jumped at that," said Hessam.

"This building would be perfectly retrofitted for that use."

The cousins said city staff then had a walk-through of the space before signing the deal with Times Group Corporation.

"It just seemed to be the perfect match for us, having a facility that met the specifications that the city was looking for in terms of size, proximity to transit and overall layout," said Hessam.

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The large, multi-room facility may have welcomed 20 refugees on its opening day, but it's expected to be at capacity by the end of the week, housing more than 200 people.

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Message from the Minister of Immigration , Refugees and Citizenship. Thanks in great part to the In 2017, 39% of economic immigrants settled outside Montreal, Toronto , or Vancouver. Immigration has been an important part of building Canada into what it is today: a country that Most eligible immigrants go on to obtain Canadian citizenship, demonstrating a lasting commitment to the country.

A refugee is different from an immigrant . Refugees who come to Canada have left their homes, and in many cases they have had to live in refugee camps for many years. build community networks with long-time Canadians and established immigrants , and. Thank you for your help! You will not receive a reply.

The building includes enough beds for 120 female and 80 male occupants, a dining hall, a social hall, several computers, a health clinic and a prayer hall.

The city has contracted out the Homes First Society to handle the day-to-day operations of the shelter.

"They [newcomers] are not used to a new surrounding, how to navigate the city, so if there's housing available, that's one thing off your mind and you can focus on getting up off your feet," said Hamid.

The City of Toronto has said that the number of refugee and asylum claimants coming to Toronto has surged since 2016, especially with migrants who cross into Canada from the U.S.

City staff said that as of October of this year, approximately 36 per cent of all shelter users in the City's permanent shelter system were refugee or asylum claimants, with an average of 15-20 new claimants entering the shelter system each day.

The Ghadaki cousins hope the large facility can help ease the burden for the city. With roughly two-thirds of the building being currently used for a shelter, the rest of it sits vacant with the possibility of adding more beds and amenities.

The families also add that the city is paying rent for the space, but their company is bringing in a lot less than it would if it had chosen to use the facility for a business venture.

The city currently has a two-year-lease on the building, but the owners are open to extending that contract.

"We've actually left that up to the city," said Hamid.

"If they want to expand the services they're providing here, that would be great for us."

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