In alignment with the Council-approved Homelessness Services Capital Infrastructure Strategy (HSCIS), the City is working to transition the shelter system from an emergency focused pandemic response to a long-term proactive service model that supports the recovery and stability of the shelter system. Part of this work includes developing existing or acquiring new sites to build purpose-built spaces with programs and supports that are responsive to the needs of people experiencing homelessness.  An integral part to the successful opening of a new shelter is community engagement. See below to learn more about the City’s plans for incorporating new shelters into communities and what residents can expect when a shelter service is announced.

The City obtained a third-party review of its community engagement process for the siting of new shelters and other services for people experiencing homelessness. The full report is available here. The objectives of the review were to:

  • Identify opportunities to enhance the community engagement and ensure that all new shelters and services for people experiencing homelessness are set up for success
  • Increase understanding and address concerns among residents about how decisions about these services are made and the impact on communities
  • Respond to individual community needs and circumstances with a flexible approach
  • Enhance community engagement structures, practices and processes, based on the principles and foundations of the Meeting in the Middle strategy

The review makes eleven recommendations that can be taken across the lifecycle of service sites to strengthen community engagement and ensure shelters and other services for people experiencing homelessness are set up for success.

The City’s response to the review, including key actions being implemented, is summarized in the October 2021 report to Council.

The City would like to thank all residents, businesses, service users and service providers who provided input into the review through the online surveys and focus groups.

City Council has delegated authority to staff to find and select new locations for shelters. The City is not required to seek community input or permission on the location of new shelter sites. However, the City is committed to engaging communities and will focus efforts on how to best support and integrate the shelter as part of the neighbourhood.

Your Initial Questions Answered

The City offers a comprehensive community engagement process that invites residents and businesses to take an active role in discussing and identifying solutions that best integrates a new shelter into the neighbourhood. City Staff will be present at various community events to help answer relevant questions on what to expect, along with print and digital materials for increased awareness in the areas where new shelters are expected to open.

Community Liaison Committees

Once residents have had a chance to get their preliminary questions answered, a more formal community engagement process will initiate involving a facilitator and a community relations lead appointed for each new location. Open houses and information sessions will generally be held in the lead up to the official opening of a shelter that will focus on shelter integration entirely.

A key highlight to this process will be the formation of a Community Liaison Committee (CLC) for each new location. A CLC is a formal committee connected to a shelter service made up of representatives of the community (condo boards, residence associations, businesses or local community organizations) that meets semi-regularly to address questions, share information, discuss and collectively problem solve community concerns, and link shelter needs with community offers of support. The work of this committee is focused on the positive integration of the shelter service into the community.

A group of residents together at a local Community Liaison Committee discussing issues and solutions relating to shelter operations
Community Liaison Committees (CLC) allow for residents and shelter staff to address local community concerns.

Community Engagement Process Overview

  1. Briefing with Councillor’s office on project and engagement plan
  2. Community Engagement Facilitator to gather feedback on key issues
  3. Public Information Notice sent to immediate community
  4. Community Information Session for discussion between residents, businesses, the City and operators
  5. Community Liaison Committee meetings to begin before and after service opens as needed

Stay Connected

The City offers electronic newsletters and other mediums for residents to stay informed about new shelter developments in the area. To sign up for electronic updates, please email

A Pathway Towards Housing

New shelters are opening up in neighbourhoods across the city from North Etobicoke, the Junction, the Annex, Scarborough and beyond. Modernization involves having these new shelters being operated under a new set of shelter standards and with design guidelines to improve the overall service and add value to the communities that they’re a part of through a new service model featuring:

  • Newer shelters will be smaller in scale when compared to existing facilities
  • Are fully accessible
  • Are pet friendly
  • Open 24-hours
  • Provide increased access to client case workers
  • Shared community programming spaces
  • Ongoing community relations and outreach staff before and following the opening of the shelter

When a new shelter comes to a neighbourhood, they provide more than just a bed. Shelters are facilities with dedicated staff and programs that aim to help clients move back towards securing housing and independence once again.

Learn more about the City’s upcoming developments by visiting the shelter infrastructure web page and for continued updates.

A Prospective Location

Prospective buildings need to allow for the delivery of high quality services with connections to supports for housing, health, employment, culture and recreation. With this in mind, City staff look for the following key features.

Adequate Space

Ideally, prospective buildings should have more than 20,000 square feet to accommodate requirements for beds, kitchens, laundry, storage, recreation programs, support services and more. Where possible, community spaces are also included to provide programming and event opportunities for residents of the entire neighbourhood.


To meet Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements, all new emergency shelters are accessible. Examples of accessibility requirements include main floor locations or access to an elevator.

Proximity to Public Transit

Emergency shelters need to be reasonably close to public transit to ensure clients can access the location.

Proximity to Related Community Services

Due diligence is done by City staff to assess the viability of a potential location based on the availability of related community services in the area. Emergency shelters should also be located close to public parks, pharmacies, health care services and more.

Other Considerations

Additional factors considered by City staff include: building conditions, associated lease or purchasing costs, and the potential to be converted into supportive housing in the long term.