The Streets Needs Assessment is a City-wide point-in-time count and survey of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto led by the City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) in collaboration with community partners in the homelessness and allied sectors.

The fifth Streets Needs Assessment was conducted in accordance with public health guidelines in April 2021.

SSHA heard from more than 2,500 people experiencing homelessness about the services and supports that would help them get the housing and supports they need to end their homelessness.

Read the report here.

The main objectives of a Streets Needs Assessment are to:

  • Determine the scope and profile of people experiencing homelessness
  • Give people a voice in identifying what supports and services they need to end their homelessness
  • Provide critically important data to improve services and programs for people experiencing homelessness in Toronto

The 2021 assessment included people who are staying:

  • Outdoors, including encampments
  • In City-administered shelters and motel/hotels (including COVID-19 response sites and the recovery site)
  • In City-administered 24-hour respite sites (including 24-hour women’s drop-ins and winter services in operation)
  • In provincially administered Violence Against Women shelters, health and treatment and correctional facilities

It did not include people who are experiencing hidden homelessness, such as people who are temporarily staying with others.

The 2021 results directly informed SSHA’s three-year service plan that was approved by Toronto City Council in November 2021, and will help guide future policy and program development. Previous Streets Needs Assessment results have helped to improve program and service delivery, such as the development of an Indigenous funding stream with a 20% allocation of grants funding, the creation of an LGBTQ2S+ youth shelter, and increased resources for shelter programming for seniors.

  • Indoor survey: April 19-23
  • Indoor and outdoor count: April 21
  • Outdoor survey: April 27
  • Final full report published in October

As a condition of federal Reaching Home funding, the City was required to conduct a survey between March 1 and April 30, 2021.

Key findings from the 2021 Street Needs Assessment are:

  • The profile of those experiencing homelessness changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall decrease in homelessness since 2018 is primarily due to fewer refugee families as a result of COVID-19 border restrictions.
  • People experience homelessness (an estimated 7,347) in all areas of Toronto pointing to a need for services and supports available across the city.
  • Most people experiencing homelessness are Toronto residents (90 per cent have lived in the city for more than one year).
  • Specific groups are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness in Toronto, particularly:
    • Indigenous people
    • Racialized individuals, particularly those who identify as Black
    • People who first experienced homelessness as a child or youth
    • People who have had foster care experience
    • People who identify as 2SLGBTQ+
  • Gaps in other service systems are key contributors to homelessness, particularly health, including mental health, and access to harm reduction supports and substance use treatment.
    • The findings in particular, show a gap in access to substance use treatment. One-third of respondents who were not currently in treatment for a substance use issue expressed interest in accessing treatment.
  • People continue to identify that the most important supports to help find housing are those that increase housing affordability and income – emphasizing the importance of permanent housing solutions to homelessness

Read the full results of the 2021 Street Needs Assessment 

The City made a series of adaptations to the Streets Needs Assessment to reduce the risks associated with implementation. The approach ensured all public health measures and guidelines were followed and the project was delivered safely for everyone involved.

Adaptations include:

  • Surveys led by existing shelter and outreach staff (no volunteers visiting shelters)
  • Staff adhering to appropriate public health measures, including maintaining physical distancing and using appropriate PPE
  • Training delivered online instead of in-person
  • Surveys administered electronically (no paper surveys)

These modifications included the recommended methodology prescribed by the federal government for communities across Canada.

COVID-19 Guidance: Homelessness Services & Congregate Living Settings

Shelter Directive on use of Medical Masks

Use of PPE in Homelessness Services Settings

Covid-19 Screening Tool for Homelessness Services Settings 

The City conducted Street Needs Assessments in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2018 and 2021. Read those reports.

The SNA would not have been possible without the tremendous support of all of the staff and agencies who partnered with the City of Toronto to make it happen. This was acknowledged in video messages by Mayor John Tory, Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and the General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, Mary-Anne Bedard.