The COVID-19 pandemic required Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) to continuously adapt program delivery to support the wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness. As a result, over the past two years, the shelter system has undergone significant transformation to respond to the unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19.

During the pandemic, the City opened temporary emergency shelter sites to meet the Ontario Ministry of Health guidelines for physical distancing in congregate living settings and provide safe indoor space for people living outdoors. Currently, there are 27 temporary shelter sites operating, providing safe shelter to 3,200 people each night. Given that these temporary spaces currently account for approximately 40% of the total shelter system capacity, a sudden reversal of these spaces is not recommended as it would cause significant disruption to the vital services delivered through the sites and to those who rely on them.

On April 6, City Council approved SSHA’s “COVID-19 Shelter Transition and Relocation Plan Update,” which provided authority to extend most temporary shelters to April 2023 to support a gradual, phased approach to transition over the next 24 months.

All locations are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provide wrap-around support for clients, including:

  • Meals and laundry
  • Access to harm reduction and mental and physical health supports
  • Counsellors/Case Managers who work with clients to develop permanent housing plans
  • Assessments and referrals to other community services, as needed

On-site staff are available to respond to concerns and all locations have a security program in place.

The City is developing a phased transition and relocation plan out of current temporary COVID-19 sites that considers the needs of service users and ensures adequate shelter capacity is maintained.

An update to this plan, which outlines a phased approach to transition over the next 24 months, was approved by Toronto City Council on April 6. Through the plan, Council provided authority to extend lease and licence agreements at most temporary shelters until April 2023 while the transition plan is implemented. Council also approved the creation of a dedicated refugee shelter sector to free up existing shelter capacity.

More details outlined in the Transition and Relocation Plan Update staff report that was approved by Council will be featured here in the coming weeks.

Due to the urgency of the pandemic, staff focused on finding spaces that were ready for operations with minimal retrofits required. Hotels were considered optimal solutions as they provided the furniture, ability to physical distance, and were able to provide cleaning services, as well as catering services, if required.

Currently, there are 27 temporary COVID-19 shelter sites. The sites are located across the city in 13 different wards. View a map of the City’s shelter and 24-hour respite sites, including the temporary COVID-19 response sites.

Community Engagement

The City typically engages the community in advance of opening a new shelter in an effort to provide information about the program and support its successful integration into the community. This was not possible for many of the temporary sites due to the speed at which the City had to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The City had to work quickly to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in shelters and the community.

City Council delegated authority to staff to site temporary shelters through Municipal Code Chapter 59, Emergency Management as a result of the pandemic. This is in addition to authorities delegated in 2017 that allow staff to site locations that meet zoning bylaws, prior to engaging with the community.

The City remains committed to working with the community to address any questions or concerns regarding the temporary shelter sites. See the “Who to Call” tab for more information.

Additional information can also be found regarding community engagement at the following shelters:

We appreciate that the community is very interested in these sites and have questions and concerns. Representatives from the City and community partners who operate and engage with the community are available to respond to these questions and concerns. However, please note that communications should be respectful. The City of Toronto is an inclusive public organization. Racist or other forms of prejudicial, derogatory, or discriminatory comments and questions, including name calling, will not be tolerated.

311

3-1-1 or 416-338-0889 (TTY)

To request help for homeless individuals who need support.

Report concerns about:

Central Intake

416-397-5637

Telephone support to individuals seeking access to emergency shelter.

Police Non-Emergency

416-808-2222  or 416-467-0493 (TTY)

Report crimes where no person is in immediate danger (i.e. theft, vandalism, fraud).

9-1-1

In an emergency, always call 9-1-1 (fires, crimes in progress, medical emergencies requiring an ambulance).