Homelessness is a known problem in Toronto and contributes to health inequities. In partnership with our supporting agencies, Toronto Public Health (TPH) is tracking the deaths of people experiencing homelessness in order to get a better estimate of the number of deaths and their causes. Data is being collected for people who are experiencing homelessness and die while living at shelters, on the street, or at other locations in Toronto. This will provide solid evidence on which to base efforts to improve the health of this vulnerable population.

 

Total Deaths (2017)*: 100

Trends in Deaths of People Experiencing Homelessness, Toronto, 2017*

Graph shows the number of homeless deaths per quarter and per month. Q1 = 27, Q2 = 22, Q3 = 30, Q4 = 21.

Average Number of Deaths per Week, Summary by Quarter*

  • January 1 to March 31: 2.1
  • April 1 to June 30: 1.7
  • July 1 to September 30: 2.3
  • October 1 to December 31: 1.6
  • Annual average: 1.9

 

Deaths of People Experiencing Homelessness by Age Group, Toronto, 2017*

This graph shows the number of homeless deaths by age (from 20 to 80+)

Median age of deceased to date*: 48 years

 

Deaths of People Experiencing Homelessness by Gender, Toronto, 2017*

This map shows the number of homeless deaths by gender (male: 74, female: 25, trans:1)

 

Deaths of People Experiencing Homelessness by Location, Toronto, 2017*

This graph shows the number of homeless deaths by location (indoors: 65, outdoors: 9, unknown: 26)

*Results are derived from Toronto Public Health, Shelter Services and other data sources and are subject to adjustment as new reports or additional information about existing reports are received.

Updates for 2018 will be posted every six months.

 

What is the definition of “homeless”?

  • This project characterizes “homelessness” as:

The situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It is the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, stressful and distressing (Canadian Homelessness Research Network of York University).

  • Thus someone who is temporarily staying with friends or family, or transitioning to new housing, but has experienced long periods without a permanent home, would be considered homeless.

Why did TPH launch this initiative?

  • Homelessness is a known problem in Toronto and contributes to health inequities. Previously, death data for people experiencing homelessness in Toronto has been limited to those who had been living in City-funded shelters. As a result, the full scope of this problem has been unknown.
  • Toronto City Council motion directed “appropriate city staff to collect all relevant data related to the deaths of homeless individuals within and outside of homeless shelters.”
  • Through this initiative, data is being collected for people experiencing homelessness who die while living on the street, at a friend’s place, at a shelter, or at other locations in Toronto. Ultimately, the initiative will provide better data to help carry out this mandate and provide solid evidence on which to base efforts to improve the health of this vulnerable population.

What are the recorded numbers from recent years?

  • Recent stats for recorded deaths of people living in City-funded shelters are as follows:
    • 2016: 30 deaths
    • 2015: 45 deaths
    • 2014: 30 deaths
    • 2013: 16 deaths
    • Complete data is available via Homelessness Services
  • These numbers represent deaths reported to City-funded shelter residents and do not reflect the full extent of the issue.

Who is participating in this initiative?

  • Toronto Public Health is leading the initiative.
  • Approximately 200 health and social service agencies that support people experiencing homelessness are participating in the initiative by sharing data with Toronto Public Health. The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario (OCCO) is also helping to verify some of the data.
  • Toronto Public Health collects and analyzes the data, and reports the results on a regular basis.

How is information collected?

  • A secure, web-based form is available to participating agencies. Data collected by the form is downloaded by TPH where it is reviewed and verified with the assistance of the OCCO as noted above.

When did this initiative begin?

  • Data collection for this initiative began January 1, 2017.

What kind of information is collected?

  • Initially, we are collecting the following information about the deceased individual, including:
    • name
    • gender
    • age
    • date and place of death
    • unofficial cause of death
    • contact information for the individual reporting the death
    • other information deemed as relevant by the reporting individual
  • We will evaluate the system going forward and may add additional data fields as needed.
  • Individual-level data will be treated as confidential.

What is done with the information?

  • Data is summarized and reported in aggregate form.
  • Epidemiologically, the information will be used to gain a truer understanding of the number of deaths in the homeless community and potentially identify year to year, seasonal, geographic and other trends related to the population.
  • The information will help raise awareness of these tragic deaths and respond with appropriate strategies to help improve the health of this vulnerable population, thereby helping to reduce health inequities in Toronto.
  • Individual-level data is treated as confidential.

When is the information made available?

  • Updates are posted every six months.
  • Additional reporting will be determined based on need and the results of the data. Information related to unofficial cause of death will be released twice annually in August and February to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned.

Who can I contact for more information?

  • Members of the public or partner agencies, contact:
    Dr. Joyce Bernstein, Epidemiologist
    Surveillance and Epidemiology Unit / Performance and Standards Directorate
    joyce.bernstein@toronto.ca
    (416) 338-8075
  • Members of Toronto City Council or other government agencies, contact:
    Sarah Collier, Manager
    Surveillance and Epidemiology Unit / Performance and Standards Directorate
    sarah.collier@toronto.ca
    (416) 392-1359
  • Members of the media, contact:
    TPH Media relations
    tphmedia@toronto.ca

Toronto Public Health’s Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe announced the new initiative to track deaths of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto at a media event on January 10, 2017. Watch the video clip below for details.

Related Links

For more information or to report a death of a person experiencing homelessness, please contact the Toronto Public Health Surveillance and Epidemiology Unit at 416-392-7450 or seu@toronto.ca.

If the death is newly discovered, please call 911 first.

Cut-off Dates for Reporting Deaths

For deaths occurring in 2018 between:

  • January 1 and June 30: Please report by July 31, 2018
  • July 1 and December 31: Please report by January 31, 2019