Coordinated Access to Housing and Supports (Coordinated Access) is a systems-level approach for addressing homelessness that provides a consistent way to assess, prioritize and connect people experiencing homelessness to City-funded housing and supports. Coordinated Access is a key component of several municipal plans, including the 2020-2030 HousingTO Action Plan and the Homelessness Solutions Service Plan. It is internationally recognized as a best practice for reducing homelessness, and is mandated by provincial and federal levels of government.

The Coordinated Access approach brings government agencies, Indigenous leaders, service providers and service users to work together and set priorities for the best use of supportive housing resources to achieve shared outcomes. In Toronto, a growing number of supportive housing opportunities established by the City through provincial, federal and municipal funding initiatives are filled through this process (for example, the Modular Housing Initiative, the Rapid Rehousing Initiative, and recent supportive housing developments). Coordinated Access is not a program in itself and members of the public cannot apply to it directly.

Toronto’s Coordinated Access approach includes implementation of a number of key initiatives:

  • The STARS (Service Triage, Assessment, and Referral Support) common assessment tool, which supports service providers and service users to navigate homelessness and housing services, with consistency across the sector.
  • A By Name List of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto.
  • A standardized prioritization process to provide transparent decision-making, accountability and oversight for the allocation of supportive housing opportunities established by the City of Toronto.
  • The PATHS (Priority Access to Housing and Supports) direct-matching process, which connects people to housing and supports that best meet their needs.process graphic outlining types of intake, housing focused services and housing opportunities

The goal of a Coordinated Access system is to ensure that people are provided housing-focused supports that help to achieve the goal of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. This is measured by reductions in:

  • chronic homelessness
  • overall homelessness
  • homelessness experienced by priority populations, including Indigenous people
  • new inflows into homelessness
  • returns to homelessness

The City’s Shelter System Flow data is updated monthly and demonstrates real-time progress towards achieving these system goals.

Under the federal government’s Reaching Home program, the development of a Coordinated Access approach is led by Community Entities. In Toronto, the Community Entity is the City of Toronto’s Toronto Shelter and Support Services (TSSS) division and the Indigenous Community Entity is the Aboriginal Labour Force Development Circle (ALFDC). The Community Entities are guided by Community Advisory Boards. These Boards are local organizing committees composed of a range of service providers and people with lived experience of homelessness.

TSSS works closely with the ALFDC and both CABs:

City staff regularly engage with a range of other stakeholders including frontline workers, service users, the Toronto Shelter Network (TSN), TSSS’ Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR) Steering Committee, and TAEH’s People with Lived Experience of Homelessness Caucus.

Toronto’s Service Triage, Assessment and Referral Support (STARS) is used by all City-funded shelter and street outreach programs. The STARS tool includes three components:

  • Intake & Triage
  • Housing Checklist
  • Supports Assessment

The STARS tool supports a person-centred, holistic, effective and housing-focused response to homelessness. The tool provides a standardized way to understand people’s support needs and assist staff to connect people experiencing homelessness to housing and resources that they may be eligible for.

  • The STARS Intake & Triage collects information on demographics, income, support needs and the level of support a person may need to find and maintain housing. This information is used by frontline homelessness service workers and caseworkers to guide people to access services. This information also informs the By Name List (see below) and is aggregated in the Shelter System Flow
  • Caseworkers use the STARS Housing Checklist to ensure people have key documents needed to access housing (e.g. ID, source of income) and apply for rental subsidies (e.g. Notice of Assessment, housing applications). Caseworkers review rental housing, social housing and supportive housing opportunities with people and assist them to complete applications, as needed.
  • The STARS Supports Assessment assesses the types of personal and professional supports a person may need, as well as those that are already in place. City staff ask homelessness service providers to complete the Supports Assessment with people prioritized for housing and support opportunities through the Priority Access to Housing with Supports (PATHS) direct-matching process, and Follow-Up Supports.

The STARS tool helps to ensure that all people who come into contact with shelters and street outreach services have access to housing-focused case management supports.

The tool was developed in collaboration with Indigenous partners, front-line staff, sector leaders, TSSS’ Confronting Anti-Black Racism Steering Committee, people with lived experience of homelessness, and Toronto’s two Community Advisory Boards (TICAB and TAEH).

For people accessing overnight emergency services, once the STARS Intake & Triage is complete and a person has provided consent to have their information recorded in the City’s Shelter Management Information System (SMIS), the person is now part of the By Name List (BNL) and will remain on the list for 3 months from when they last accessed overnight services. The BNL is a real-time list of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto and includes a robust set of data points that support prioritization. Aggregate-level data informs the City’s Shelter System Flow data.

While people who are sleeping exclusively outdoors are not currently included in the By Name List, work is underway with street outreach providers to include them. However, most people move between indoor and outdoor spaces and, based on the 2021 Street Needs Assessment, it is estimated that at least 80% of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto are currently included on the By Name List. While the Street Needs Assessment provides a comprehensive count of people experiencing homelessness at a single point in time, the By Name List is updated in real time and supports efforts to prioritize access to housing with supports to ensure equity-deserving groups who are overrepresented in our homelessness system are connected with the housing and supports that best meet their needs.

In most cases, people experiencing homelessness are able to secure housing independently or with the support of a housing-focused caseworker, and may require only a housing benefit to secure and maintain housing.

In some cases, people experiencing homelessness may be offered a supportive housing opportunity through the Priority Access to Housing and Supports (PATHS) direct-matching process. This process is driven by a commitment to the principles of a Coordinated Access approach.

The prioritization policy was developed in collaboration with the Community Advisory Boards, Toronto Shelter and Support Services’ Confronting Anti-Black Racism Steering Committee, and other sector partners. The prioritization policy exists to bring transparency to the decision-making process that determines which households are identified for available supportive housing resources.

The current prioritization policy takes an intersectional, equity-based approach that aligns with the Homelessness Solutions Service Plan, the findings from the 2021 Street Needs Assessment, and the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, as well as learnings and best practices from other communities.

The current policy prioritizes housing opportunities for the following population groups experiencing homelessness:

  • People who are experiencing chronic homelessness (6 months out of the past year or 18 months out of the past 3 years)
  • Indigenous people
  • Youth
  • Seniors
  • Black people
  • Other racialized people
  • 2SLGBTQ+ people
  • Women

The current policy will be subject to review and revision. A collaborative oversight approach will be implemented in partnership with the City’s Community Advisory Boards to review outcomes achieved.

The Priority Access to Housing and Supports (PATHS) direct-matching process is used to offer housing and support opportunities to people on the By Name List (BNL) who meet prioritization and eligibility criteria. The housing units offered through this process are managed by diverse community agencies. Some units are in dedicated social housing buildings with support workers on site. Other units are in public housing or subsidized private market rentals with mobile follow-up supports attached. Examples of units filled through the PATHS direct-matching process are the Rapid Rehousing Initiative and new supportive housing developments, including the Modular Housing Initiative.

City staff work with housing providers to understand the vacant housing opportunity, including the type and intensity of supports provided and any eligibility criteria. Staff review the BNL to identify people who meet eligibility and prioritization criteria for the available units.

Once households are identified, City staff reach out to the homelessness service providers currently supporting the prioritized households. Housing opportunities are offered primarily through City-funded shelters and street outreach services, though offers may also be made in partnership with other sectors (e.g. provincially funded Intimate Partner Violence shelters and Indigenous service providers with diverse funding sources).

City staff advise homelessness service providers of the supportive housing opportunities available. With an emphasis on client choice, the service provider speaks with the prioritized household to identify if they are interested in the specific offer. If the household is interested, the service provider conducts the STARS Supports Assessment. City staff review the completed assessments and refer people to the housing and support opportunity they have been matched with. The housing provider may then conduct their own assessment to confirm the match before they proceed with an intake.

The PATHS prioritization and direct-matching process described above is a centralized process for making housing offers. You cannot apply directly. If you are currently experiencing homelessness, please ask your housing worker to review the process with you and provide more information.

If you are in search of shelter, housing or other forms of support, you may reach out directly to the following:

If you are connected with a housing worker, please ask them if you may be eligible for additional supports such as the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB), Follow-Up Supports, Furniture Bank services, and other resources not available through self-directed applications.