Front cover of the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines document

The Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines was released in January 2021, after a collaborative process with a diverse group of stakeholders. The guidelines are a living document, with a commitment to annual review.

Review of Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines

Throughout the fall of 2021, the City began conducting a broad review of the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines as part of the commitment to  annually re-examine the document. The purpose of the first year’s review of the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines is to identify gaps and recommendations that facilities, staff, architects and equity deserving groups, and other consultants identified as needing to be refined based on their using or consulting the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines during its inaugural year, and keeping in mind the original design principles. In Q4 of 2021, three focus groups occurred. Please see “2021 Review” on the accordion below for more details. In Q2 of 2022, focused sessions will be held for equity deserving groups. The objectives of the review are:

  1. To review the Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines and identify areas that are working well and areas that may require improvement, taking into account needs of the clients, staff and changes in legislation.
  2. To provide population-specific focus groups to collect feedback on the impact of the Shelter Design Guidelines.
  3. To undertake engagement with an equity lens in safe and engaging spaces.

Focus Group Discussions

The City is organizing virtual sessions with key stakeholders, including equity-deserving groups. Each session will be interactive, approximately 2 hours and will be facilitated by a third-party consultant. Participants for sessions for accessibility groups, the Black community, the Indigenous community and 2SLGBTQ+ groups are being sent individual invitations. If you self-identify as being part of one of these groups, or work extensively with one of these groups, please email ShelterDesignGuidelines@toronto.ca to be included in those sessions.

Please note that participants are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the key sections in the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines identified below in advance of the focus group discussion. Download the Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines.

Date Time Session Name Key Sections for Session
May 11, 2022 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Accessibility groups
  • Section 2 Principles
  • Section 3 Facility Planning
  • Section 4 Site Design
  • Section 5 Functional Components
  • Section 7 Materials & Finishes
May 24, 2022 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Indigenous community TBD
May 25, 2022 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 2SLGBTQ+ groups TBD
May 30, 2022 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Black community TBD

Input from Shelter Residents

Shelter residents will be invited to provide input at locations that were constructed utilizing the Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines.

Three focus groups were conducted in the Fall of 2021. Each was related to finding opportunities to identify areas that are working well and areas that may require improvement, taking into account needs of the shelter residents, staff and changes in legislation. Stakeholders participated in the focus group session that were most relevant to their area(s) of expertise and experience. The Focus Group sessions generated discussion on the following topics:

  • Shelter Operations – Food Services, Laundry, Housekeeping, Waste;
  • Shelter Operations – Shipping/Receiving/Storage, Maintenance;
  • Building Services;
  • Risk, Security & IT, including Cameras and Access Control;
  • Infection Prevention and Control, Client Health and Wellness Supports;
  • Energy Conservation, Resiliency, Mechanical & Electrical Design;
  • Front Line Experience – Various sectors

During this round of engagements, participants in the focus groups included representatives from:

  • City of Toronto Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff
  • Representatives of third-party shelter providers;
  • Consultants and Engineers
  • Frontline shelter staff; and
  • Community partners and health care providers with relevant shelter and/or expert knowledge.

The sessions were held virtually via WebEx Platform. In advance of the session, each stakeholder group was advised of the Key Sections of the Shelter Design Guidelines that were relevant to their group as well as the questions for discussion to allow them to be prepared for the session. Generally, these sessions followed a format where the facilitator presented a recap of the development of the Shelter Design Guidelines and then the participants were able to participate in break out rooms where they were asked questions and invited to speak in an open forum discussion.

Session Name Key Sections for Session
Facilities and Architects
  • Section 2 Principles
  • Section 4 Site Design
  • Section 6 Building and Environmental Design
  • Section 7 Materials and Finishes
Shelter Staff & Operators (non-property staff)
  • Section 4 Site Design
  • Section 5 Functional Components
Community groups, partner agencies and health groups
  • Section 3 Facility Planning
  • Section 5 Functional Components

The Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines was released in January 2021, after a collaborative process with a diverse group of stakeholders, including equity-deserving groups who are over-represented in the shelter system. The guidelines are a living document that provides for best practices in the design of shelters in Toronto. It is intended to enhance positive outcomes and experiences for the shelter users, staff and the community in new and renovated shelters through designs that promote dignity, comfort and choice for the clients.

The recommendations include criteria spanning a broad range of areas, from design approaches and principles, through to functional components of the building, environmental design and materials and finishes.

The Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines are of greatest value in the development of new shelters, but may also influence design decisions in the renovation of existing shelters.

Download the Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines .

We would like to thank the many people, agencies and stakeholders who shared their time and expertise in contributing to the Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines. We wish to thank them all for their shared insights.