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.

On April 6, 2022, City Council approved the COVID-19 Transition and Relocation Plan, which recommended a phased approach to transition out of temporary shelter sites throughout 2022 and 2023 that considers the needs of service users and ensures adequate shelter capacity is maintained.

On January 11, 2023, the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee adopted a staff report that provides an update on Phase 1 of the COVID-19 Transition and Relocation Plan. A summary of these updates can be found below.

The report also recommends the City continue a phased approach by requesting authorities to extend the majority of lease and licence agreements at temporary shelter sites until April 2024, along with ancillary services to support these programs. The report also outlines recommendations to support the growing number of refugee claimants and/or asylum seekers looking for emergency shelter.

The City continues to experience an unprecedented demand for shelter space. There are currently 23 temporary shelter sites, which make up 30% of total spaces in the City’s shelter system and provide safe shelter to approximately 3,000 people each night.

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. Continuing use of temporary shelter sites will also help to respond to the ongoing high demand for shelter services.

This report will be heard by Toronto City Council at its meeting February 7-9.

Phase 1 of the Transition & Relocation Plan

Phase 1 included six core components of work. Expand the sections below to learn about each component.

Early in 2022, the City launched an engagement process to inform ongoing development of the COVID-19 Transition and Relocation plan.

This was led by an external consultant, BGM Strategy Group, and included input from homelessness service providers, frontline staff, people experiencing homelessness, and health and harm reduction partners. It also included 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.

Results of the engagement and consultation process can be found in this report titled: Toronto’s Shelter System past COVID: Insights from the Pandemic to Inform Post-Pandemic Planning.

The feedback has informed ongoing planning for temporary shelter sites, including Phase 2 of the Transition and Relocation Plan, which will be heard by Toronto City Council at its meeting February 7-9, 2023.

In April 2022, Council provided authority for staff to extend most temporary shelters until at least April 2023, while the City continued to implement a phased transition and relocation plan for temporary shelter sites.

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.

The City has been working with property owners to extend leases/contracts at the following sites until April 2023:

  • 14 Roncesvalles Avenue
  • 20 Milner Business Court
  • 26 Gerrard Street East
  • 335 Jarvis Street
  • 56 Yonge Street
  • 60 York Street
  • 92 Peter Street
  • 376 Dundas Street East
  • 556 Sherbourne Street
  • 808 Mt Pleasant Road*
  • 3600 Steeles Avenue West
  • 445 Rexdale Boulevard
  • 77 Ryerson Avenue
  • 354 George Street
  • 5800 Yonge Street*

*The agreements allow the sites 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 shelter use until April 2026:

  • 76 Church Street

The staff report adopted by the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee on January 11, 2023, requests authority to extend the majority of lease and licence agreements at temporary shelter sites until April 2024, along with ancillary services to support these programs.

This report will be heard by Toronto City Council at its meeting February 7-9.

The Council-approved COVID-19 Transition and Relocation Plan included 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 programs located at 195 Princes’ Boulevard, 1684 Queen Street East and 45 Esplanade closed in 2022 as each property owner indicated they would resume regular operations in 2023. As such, the City was unable to extend the leases.

The City also purchased the temporary shelter hotel at 65 Dundas Street East for conversion into permanent affordable and supportive homes. Starting in September 2022 through to the end of 2023, the shelter program will undergo a phased closure to accommodate the conversion of the building to housing.

The lease for a fifth site, located at 30 Norfinch Drive, ended on December 31, 2022. The City leased this location during the COVID-19 pandemic to help The Salvation Army who required a new location for two of its programs, including one whose building is currently being redeveloped. The Salvation Army secured a lease at a new property located at 66 Norfinch Drive and clients were relocated to that site.

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 is working to create a refugee shelter system that operates in parallel to the existing base shelter system.

The City has provided funding to community-based refugee service providers to manage these programs, including COSTI Immigrant Services, Sojourn House, Christie Welcome Centre, The Coalition of Refugee Houses and Red Cross.

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.

The staff report being considered by the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee on January 11, 2023 includes additional recommendations to support refugees.

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