The Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines provide best practices to assist those designing and building shelters or undertaking major shelter renovations in Toronto. The Guidelines are intended to respond to the evolving needs of those experiencing homelessness, and enhance positive outcomes for all shelter users, staff, visitors and the surrounding community in new and renovated shelters.

Recommendations in the Guidelines span a broad range of areas from design principles to functional components of the building, environmental design, and materials and finishes.

The Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines is a living document, intended to be reviewed and updated periodically based on ongoing consultation with service users and other key stakeholders. Originally launched in January 2021, the Guidelines underwent a review in 2021/2022 and an updated version was released in July 2023.

Download the 2023 Guidelines

Updates to the Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines

The Shelter Design & Technical Guidelines was originally released in January 2021, after a collaborative process with a wide range of stakeholders, including Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour, 2SLGBTQ+, individuals with accessibility needs, and youth experiencing homelessness.

The 2023 update to the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines covers lessons learned from pandemic response, new shelter construction, and feedback shared from staff, partners and those with lived experience of homelessness.

It includes:

  • Updates based on shelter use during the COVID-19 pandemic, including public health guidance and Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures
  • An enhanced intersectional lens informed by consultation with equity deserving populations, considering how factors like race, gender expression and identity, colonialism, accessibility, age, ethnicity, immigration status and more coincide to shape experiences in shelters and how the built form can improve those experiences
  • Updates to the functional aspects of shelter design informed by consultations with shelter operators and staff, architects, consultants and equity deserving groups
  • Feedback based on the implementation of the previous iteration of Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines at new shelters including but not limited to 101 Placer Court and 4117 Lawrence Ave. E.
  • New appendices that extract key technical and spatial guidelines for easier reference during shelter design, including guidelines related to accessible design, wayfinding and signage, managing pets in shelters, IPAC, pest control, Toronto Green Standard (TGS) compliance, durability considerations, and measures to achieve resiliency
  • A new cover incorporating work by Indigenous artist Donald Chr├ętien, which represents a beaver as a builder

The City would like to thank its partners, staff and service users who shared their time and expertise in contributing to the update of the Shelter Design and Technical Standards.