2018 Street Needs Assessment Overview
The City of Toronto is holding the fourth Street Needs Assessment (SNA) on the evening of April 26, 2018.
Hundreds of volunteers and team leads from community agencies and the City of Toronto will fan out across the city on that evening to ask people in shelters, overnight drop-ins and on the streets to complete a 23-question survey. Occupancy data will be collected in City-administered shelters and motel programs, Violence Against Women shelters, 24-hour drop-ins and winter respite programs. It will also include those with no fixed address staying in health care and corrections facilities. The count of unsheltered individuals will be done according to a generally accepted methodology to estimate the outdoor population.
The 2018 results will be compared to findings from 2006, 2009 and 2013 and will be used as a snapshot to measure the size and makeup of the City’s homeless population. The results help inform service planning as they provide a valuable source of feedback on the services that homeless people find useful in helping them to get into permanent housing and remain in their homes. For the first time, the City of Toronto’s SNA is part of the federal government’s national coordinated point-in-time count so the results will be included in the 2018 national snapshot of homelessness. We are also participating in a coordinated enumeration in Ontario
Representatives from the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness and the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council sit on the steering committee overseeing the project. This year marks the introduction of Indigenous Team Leads and specific Indigenous Cultural Safety training for all participants. The direct-cost budget for the SNA is $250,000, paid by the federal government.
- The Toronto Street Needs Assessment is a needs assessment survey and point-in-time estimate of the number of people experiencing unsheltered and sheltered homelessness in Toronto.
- The SNA is a unique data source for the City of Toronto, as neither Statistics Canada nor any other institution systematically collects information regarding the Toronto homeless population as a whole.
- The SNA employs a point-in-time methodology for enumerating homelessness that is now the standard for most major US and Canadian urban centres. The City of Toronto also employs quality assurance measures to refine the accuracy of the outdoor estimate.
- A consistent methodology and approach to the Street Needs Assessment survey has been used each year to ensure comparable results over time.
- The methodology does not include those who may be staying temporarily with friends or family.
Unsheltered Homelessness Enumeration Methodology
- Following New York City’s Department of Homeless Services approach to the annual Hope Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE), the City of Toronto employs a direct count method for the count of the outdoor homeless population. While this method is more resource intensive, it is also considered to be more comprehensive and accurate than the alternative – which strictly relies on service interactions.
- In order to facilitate the point-in-time count for the outdoor homeless population, the city is divided into study areas, based on Statistics Canada census tracts.
- Owing to time and resource constraints, not all study areas can be surveyed during the course of the SNA.
- The City of Toronto uses a combination of full coverage, known-locations, and random sampling approaches to select outdoor study areas. All high density areas are surveyed which includes full coverage of the “downtown core” and areas outside the downtown core with a known concentration of people experiencing homelessness identified based on consultation with City and community outreach staff. A random sample of low density study areas is also selected, stratified to ensure proportional distribution across Toronto’s four Community Council Areas.
- Volunteer teams are assigned to study areas (or groups of study areas) and instructed to survey all public spaces within those study areas systematically, so that every location is covered only once. Public spaces includes all streets and public squares. This year, teams of City staff will canvass, by vehicle, areas outside the downtown core which are typically lower density areas.
- Control groups are deployed to a sample of study areas to enable calculation of adjustments to account for those individuals not encountered but experiencing homelessness on the night of the enumeration.
- The outdoor population estimate is derived from the number of outdoor surveys completed during the SNA. In order to refine the estimate, calculated adjustments are made to account for coverage of survey areas and visit and capture rates for the target population.
Sheltered Homelessness Enumeration Methodology
- An enumeration of individuals staying in indoor sites is conducted based on occupancy reports provided by City shelters, 24-hour women’s drop-ins, Winter Respite Services (open on the night of the count), Violence Against Women shelters (provided by the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services), health and treatment facilities (provided by staff contacts in each facility) and correctional facilities (provided by the provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services).
- We are selecting a sample of indoor sites to conduct the needs assessment survey. Sites have been selected to ensure a sufficient sample size that represents the diversity of clients and shelters across the shelter system. Surveys will not be conducted this year within health and treatment and correctional facilities.