In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto opened a number of temporary shelter sites to provide additional space for physical distancing and safe indoor space for people living outside.

As of May 2022, there were 25 temporary shelter sites operating, providing safe shelters to approximately 3,200 people experiencing homelessness. These spaces account for approximately 40 per cent 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.

Additionally, public health guidance regarding physical distancing in congregate living settings has not changed, and the City continues to experiencing significant demand for emergency shelter .

Shelter, Support and Housing Administration is developing a phased transition and relocation plan for temporary sites for implementation in 2022/2023 that considers the needs of service users and ensures adequate shelter capacity is maintained. Details of the plan were presented and approved by City Council on April 6, 2022.

Phase 1 of the Transition & Relocation Plan

The phased approach includes six core components of work – some of which are already underway – and form the basis of Phase 1 of the transition work plan in 2022. Expand the sections below to learn about each component. Staff will report back to Council in early 2023 with an update on Phase 1 and next steps for Phase 2 of the plan.

The City has launched an engagement process to inform the development of the transition and relocation plan.

This work is being led by an external consultant, BGM Strategy Group, and includes input from homelessness service providers, frontline staff, people experiencing homelessness, and health and harm reduction partners. It also includes an in-person survey in May and June of at least 200 people staying in temporary COVID-19 hotels, facilitated in partnership with the Toronto Shelter Network.

The engagement process will be completed by June 2022 and the results will be shared publicly.

The City has the authority to extend most temporary shelters until at least April 2023, while the phased transition and relocation plan is implemented. Public health guidance regarding physical distancing in congregate living settings has not changed and the City continues to experiencing significant demand for emergency shelter. View information on daily shelter occupancy and historical information on the number of people entering and leaving the shelter system each month on Shelter System Flow.

Extending the leases allows the City time to focus on permanent housing solutions and to implement plans, which include:

  • gradually returning some capacity to the base shelter system (when permissible)
  • assessing shelter demand
  • preparing plans for sites that may be decommissioned in 2022 and 2023

Lease extensions by site

Details about the lease extensions by type of agreement with the City of Toronto, along with the planned end dates and options to extend were included in Attachment 2 of the Shelter Transition and Relocation Plan Update that was approved by City Council.

As outlined in the report, the City is working with property owners to extend leases/contracts at the following sites until April 2023, where possible and as needed:

*The current lease for 808 Mount Pleasant Rd. ends on November 30, 2022, with an option to extend to May 31, 2023, if needed.

**Agreements with these sites allow them to be used as temporary shelters until May 2023.

Prior to the pandemic, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration also secured a number of hotel and motel spaces that could be used to provide additional capacity to respond to shelter demand until August 2024. While these sites are currently being used to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely they will continue past April 2023 given ongoing shelter demand:

The following site was also secured for use until April 2026:

  • 76 Church Street

The relocation and transition plan includes closing up to five temporary shelter sites in 2022, with a focus on moving people to permanent housing wherever possible and offsetting shelter capacity. The latter will be achieved through a number of initiatives such as moving individuals in the shelter system to permanent housing, establishing a dedicated refugee shelter system (mentioned below), and increasing occupancy at remaining sites, where feasible.

Two temporary COVID-19 shelter sites locations are now closed – 195 Princes’ Blvd. and 1684 Queen St. East.

Closing any additional locations will be determined based on several factors, including:

  • site availability through negotiations with property owners
  • operational suitability
  • current state of good repair
  • cost
  • geographic location

As sites are identified for decommissioning, staff will work to establish transition plans for each of the programs to be closed, in partnership with site operators, and will work to match clients with either permanent housing or space in the shelter system that meets their individual needs.

As sites are decommissioned, the City is 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.

With the re-opening of the borders, the city of Toronto has experienced a notable increase in the number of refugee claimant seeking temporary accommodations.

In response, the City has created a specific refugee shelter sector that is operating in parallel to the existing base shelter system.

The City has provided funding to at least three community-based refugee service providers to manage these programs, COSTI Immigrant Services, The Coalition and Red Cross. Together, these organizations will provide support to approximately 750 people while they secure permanent housing in the community.

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.

Learn more about the City’s Refugee Resettlement Program for information on how the City works to support newcomers to Toronto.

Phase 2 of the Transition and Relocation Plan will outline additional sites to be decommissioned in 2023. The plan will be developed based on the learnings from Phase 1, as well as key data and indicators such as shelter demand, occupancy and progress on housing outcomes.

Staff will report back to Council in the first quarter of 2023 with an update on Phase 1 and next steps for Phase 2 of the plan.