In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto opened a number of temporary shelter sites to ensure physical distancing was maintained throughout the shelter system.
In April 2022, City Council approved the COVID-19 Shelter Transition and Relocation Plan, which recommended a thoughtful, phased approach to transition out of temporary shelter sites that considers the needs of service users and ensures adequate shelter capacity is maintained.
In February 2023, City Council approved an update to the Shelter Transition and Relocation Plan that recommended continuing the phased approach. The update was developed with feedback gathered through consultations with members of the homelessness sector and people with lived experience of homelessness. Read the engagement report.
The report also outlined ongoing recommendations to support the growing number of refugee claimants and/or asylum seekers looking for emergency shelter.
Key details regarding the Council-approved COVID-19 Transition and Relocation Plan, as well as community engagement to support temporary sites, can be found in the accordions below.
In February 2023, Council approved extending the majority of lease and licence agreements at temporary sites to April 30, 2024.
This approach supports the ongoing phased closure of temporary shelter sites, helping to minimize disruption to the vital services delivered through the sites and to those who rely on them. Continued use of most temporary shelter sites also helps respond to ongoing high demand for shelter services.
The City appreciates that many community members and stakeholders are interested in the future of temporary shelter sites. As sites are identified for closure, staff will coordinate with Councillors on the best approaches for communicating with communities ahead of planned public announcements.
The Council-approved COVID-19 Transition and Relocation Plan included closing up to five temporary shelter sites in 2023, based on the availability of sites to operate as shelters and the willingness of property owners to continue existing relationships.
As sites are identified for closure, the City works collaboratively with site operators and clients to develop relocation plans that match clients to permanent housing, as much as possible, or space in the shelter system that meets their individual needs.
The below temporary shelter sites have closed in 2023:
As sites are closed, the City is often required to restore them to their prior condition, within reason and subject to wear and tear. Some sites had existing plans to restore the hotel or redevelop the site and do not require the City to coordinate restoration.
The City has hired an external consultant to inspect all properties and develop a framework to guide discussions with property owners regarding restoration costs. The details of these costs are confidential as negotiations with property owners are ongoing.
The number of refugees seeking temporary accommodations has significantly increased since borders reopened. In response, the City has created a refugee shelter system that operates in parallel to the existing base shelter system.
The City has provided funding to several community-based refugee service providers to manage these programs. The City also provides funding to the Coalition of Four Houses Refugee Housing Hub, led by the FCJ Refugee Centre, to support its shelter diversion program, which offers settlement services and supports.
Refugee-serving programs are distinct in many ways from services provided in the rest of the shelter system – they offer specialized services and serve a population with distinct needs. By creating this specific sector for refugees, it also helps to free up shelter capacity in the base system for those who require emergency shelter.
Eligible refugee claimants and/or asylum seekers may also be referred to programs and services offered by the Federal government, including Service Canada Centres and temporary accommodations through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
In February 2023, Council provided further direction to work with partners in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) to establish a coordinated regional response to support refugee claimants and/or asylum seekers. Council also requested the Federal and Provincial governments provide support for the planning, programs and services related to large-scale refugee arrivals, including additional dedicated allocations as part of the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit.
The City typically engages the community in advance of opening a new shelter to provide information about the program and how we can work together to support its success. 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.
City staff have delegated authority to site new shelters in locations that meet City zoning by-laws to respond to shelter demand.
Even though the City is not required to seek community input or permission on the location of new shelter sites, the City remains committed to working with the community to address questions or concerns. 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.
3-1-1 or 416-338-0889 (TTY)
To request help for individuals experiencing homeless who may need support.
Report concerns about:
Telephone support to individuals seeking access to emergency shelter.
416-808-2222 or 416-467-0493 (TTY)
Report crimes where no person is in immediate danger (i.e. theft, vandalism, fraud).
In an emergency, always call 9-1-1 (fires, crimes in progress, medical emergencies requiring an ambulance).