Winter Respite Services were designed to meet the needs of especially vulnerable people who typically do not access the shelter system. These services offer 24/7, low-barrier access to sleeping spaces, food and drinks, and referrals to other supports such as shelters and community services.

With unprecedented cold weather and increased demand for services, combined with rapid service expansion, the City has experienced operating challenges in the winter respite system this season.

The City acknowledges these challenges and through its work with the Ombudsman’s Office has taken the following actions to improve service:

  • Better coordination through Central Intake and the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre at 129 Peter Street to manage occupancy levels across the system and referrals to available shelter beds.
  • Increased monitoring and oversight, including daily reporting from service providers on occupancy and indoor temperatures, weekly site visits, and improved issues management.
  • Direct intervention when required with service partners to ensure heating and plumbing systems are operating effectively and any necessary site repairs or site enhancements are completed in a timely manner.
  • Utilizing cots as opposed to sleeping mats when opening new services, and transitioning to cots where feasible in existing service locations.
  • Developing Winter Respite Service Standards that will address physical space and facilities, health and safety, support services and staffing.

The City is actively engaged with its community partners and will continue to make improvements to the system to ensure the dignity, safety and comfort of people accessing 24 Hour Winter Respite Services.