If you are in need of emergency shelter space, please call the City of Toronto’s Central Intake line at 416-338-4766 or 1-877-338-3398 or by calling 311.

Central Intake is a City-operated, 24/7 telephone-based service that offers referrals to emergency shelter and other overnight accommodation, as well as information about other homelessness services.

Central Intake provides the following services:

  • Refers callers experiencing homelessness to available emergency accommodation, including referrals to City-operated or partner-operated shelters and 24-hour respite sites
  • Supports callers through warm transfers to specialized services and responds to requests for information about other services and programs that may be seen as connected to homelessness response, such as detox programs, primary and mental health care supports, refugee services and legal services
  • Provides information to callers about housing stability services (for example, drop-ins, supports to daily living, housing help and eviction prevention, the Rent Bank, Office of the Commissioner of Housing Equity and Landlord and Tenant Board)

Central Intake caseworkers provide callers with referrals to shelters across the city by learning about (or assessing) the caller’s needs and using a centralized information system to identify shelter spaces that are available at that time that can meet the client’s needs.

While caseworkers make every effort to match callers to shelters based on their preferences, callers to Central Intake may not always be offered or accept a shelter space on their first call depending on availability at the time of the call. This is because Toronto’s shelter system is complex and dynamic, and space availability changes throughout the day as people access services or find alternate accommodations.  Further, some callers have specific needs or requests that limit the spaces available to them, including the need for spaces for couples, accessibility needs or supports for pets.

If a client contacts Central Intake and hears that there are no available beds that meet their needs at that time, the caseworker will encourage the individual to call back later, and will also offer to record the caller’s phone number so they can be called back if space becomes available.

Since 2018, the City has implemented an enhanced Central Intake service focused on improving the client experience through:

  • enhanced technology (including call recording technology for ongoing quality assurance processes)
  • revitalized training
  • development of key performance indicators
  • an expanded workforce and improved customer service processes

These enhancements enabled Central Intake to achieve lower call wait times, improve the call answer rate and respond to higher call volumes.

The modernization process is ongoing, and a number of immediate improvements are underway to ensure those who request emergency accommodation over the phone have access to timely, accurate information about available services. The improvements will also continue to enhance data processes to improve customer service and referral efficiency, and better understand these trends in order to respond to specific needs.

The City is committed to continuing to enhance the use of data in planning services for people experiencing homelessness by enhancing its data collection and reporting capabilities, and reporting publicly on these indicators.

Data related to the number of calls handled, the number of individuals that received referrals, and the number of individuals unmatched to shelters is available on the City’s website and Open Data Portal.

The Toronto shelter system is the largest shelter system in Canada providing shelter and support to thousands of people each night. View information on daily shelter occupancy and historical information on the number of people entering and leaving the shelter system each month on Shelter System Flow.

While the emergency shelter system plays an important role in supporting the health and wellness of those experiencing homelessness, its intended purpose is to provide short-term accommodation for people when they are in housing crisis. The real solution is permanent housing with supports. The City’s 10-year housing plan, HousingTO 2020-2030, includes actions across the full housing spectrum – from homelessness to rental and ownership housing to long-term care for seniors. The plan calls for the approval of 40,000 new affordable rental homes including 18,000 new supportive homes by 2030.