The City is committed to a people-first, client-centered approach to help connect those living outside and in encampments with shelter and housing. Outreach efforts at these locations focus on engaging with individuals to build trusting relationships, help address immediate health and safety needs and find permanent housing.

The City uses a multi-divisional approach to respond to the complex needs of those living outdoors. Outreach staff work to facilitate access to inside spaces, housing and wrap-around supports while operational units remove waste and debris and ensure parks and other shared-use spaces are accessible to all.

Where possible, the City will respond to larger encampments by bringing comprehensive social and health service supports directly to the site. This enhanced, housing-focused approach is based on the “Dufferin Grove Park model” initially implemented in 2021 and outlined in A Housing First approach for encampments: Findings from Dufferin Grove Park.

Should you see someone experiencing homelessness who you feel needs outreach support, please contact 311. Staff will continue to visit the location to connect with the individual, monitor their needs and offer available services.

The City’s response to encampments is led by the Toronto Shelter and Support Services (TSSS) division.

The Encampment Office resides within TSSS’ Outreach and Access Section and, in partnership with other municipal and community agencies and stakeholders, works to provide public, social and health-related supports to people experiencing homelessness.

The role of the Encampment Office is to respond to encampments by:

  • connecting those living at encampments with outreach services provided by Streets to Homes
  • facilitating access to spaces within the shelter system
  • coordinating with multiple City divisions and community partners to address the complex health and safety risks in and around encampments
  • removing waste and debris
  • ensuring City of Toronto public spaces such as parks, greenspaces and right-of-ways are accessible to all

The Encampment Office chairs, and is supported by, the Encampment Working Group, a multi-divisional group made up of staff from Toronto Shelter and Support Services, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Municipal Licensing and Standards, Solid Waste Management Services, Corporate Security, Toronto Fire Services, Strategic Public and Employee Communications, Transportations Services, Toronto Police Service and Hydro One.

Streets to Homes Outreach Program

The City’s Streets to Homes outreach team and partner agencies conduct daily outreach to proactively connect with people living outdoors and in encampments.

Available 24 hours per day, seven days a week, year-round, they focus on establishing supportive relationships as a first step in addressing an individual’s immediate needs.

Outreach staff work to refer encampment occupants into the shelter system or permanent housing. This includes – but is not limited to – developing a housing plan, accessing income and identification supports, completing housing applications, accompanying individuals to viewings, and assisting with lease signings. Once a person accepts a referral for shelter or housing, staff continue to provide wrap-around supports.

Streets to Homes and Toronto Paramedic Services also conduct ongoing wellness checks of individuals in encampments to ensure increased access to health services.

Parks Outreach and Response

The City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation division plays an important role in outreach and the response to encampments in parks and greenspaces.

Parks Ambassadors are a responsive, mobile crew that actively visit parks across the city and engage with people living in encampments. They conduct safety and wellness checks, distribute water, socks and other goods, and connect individuals to Streets to Homes or other support agencies. They also provide information for other City services and facilities such as washrooms, showers and recreation centres.

There is a dedicated clean up team that works to ensure parks are clean, safe and accessible to all. They clean litter and debris left behind from encampments, remove any hazards, and work to restore parks and open spaces for broader public use.

Fire Safety Education

Fires in encampments present a significant risk to individuals living outdoors. In response, the Toronto Fire Services (TFS) Community Risk Reduction Team has increased fire safety education and emergency response protocols for encampments. TFS staff visit encampments daily to engage with occupants, conduct site safety visits and to educate people on fire safety. This includes handing out Stay safe from fire! cards which are given to encampment occupants.

Toronto Fire Services does not provide safety equipment, portable extinguishers or fire retardant blankets to any encampment sites, but does endorse fire safety messaging and education for encampment occupants.

Toronto Paramedic Services and Additional Medical Care

Toronto Paramedic Services and Streets to Homes outreach staff visit encampments together and provide wound care, dressing, health education and advice.

Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) conducts outreach and provides transitional healthcare for people living outside and in encampments through its Street Clinical Outreach for Unsheltered Torontonians (SCOUT) program. A mobile team comprised of two nurses, a family doctor and a case worker provide clinical care that is low barrier, patient-centered, trauma-informed, and harm reduction focused.

Mental Health Supports

Mental health supports are provided to those experiencing homelessness through the Multi-Disciplinary Outreach Team (M-DOT). Led by LOFT Community Services, a specialized team of medical practitioners and mental health specialists delivers outreach services to people in encampments, on the street and in shelters. These services include addressing basic needs, housing assistance, medical and addictions care and financial support with the long-term goal of getting people stabilized, permanently housed and connected to supports in the community.

Toronto Public Health

Toronto Public Health provides harm reduction and substance treatment services to encampments through The Works.

The Works offers mobile and street outreach services, such as:

  • Harm reduction supply distribution
  • Safer drug use education
  • Safer disposal of sharps education
  • Naloxone training and distribution
  • Testing, vaccination and wound care (when nursing staff is available)

The City’s response to encampments is grounded in a Housing First approach and outreach work is focused on helping people access alternatives to living outside, including shelter and housing.

Shelters provide temporary accommodation and related support services that assist people to secure permanent housing. Toronto has more emergency shelter beds per capita than any other Canadian city.

All shelter locations are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provide a variety of services and wrap-around supports, including meals and laundry, counsellors/case managers to assist with developing permanent housing plans, harm reduction supports, mental and physical healthcare and referrals to other community services.

The shelter system is made up of City-operated locations and those operated by community partners. There are programs that serve specific demographics, such as women, men, 2SLGBTQ+, seniors, families, youth, Indigenous people and refugee claimants, offering dedicated services to address the unique needs of these groups.

The emergency shelter system plays an important role in supporting the health and wellness of those experiencing homelessness. However, the solution to homelessness is permanent housing with supports.

The City’s 10-year housing plan, HousingTO 2020-2030, includes actions across the full housing spectrum. The plan calls for the approval of 65,000 new rent-controlled homes across the city by 2030, including 6,500 rent-geared-to-income (RGI) homes and 18,000 supportive homes.

Belongings Storage and Retrieval

Short-term storage

When individuals move from encampments into shelter or housing, the City may store certain belongings for a maximum of 30 days. All property collected is photographed on site, placed in a plastic bag and appropriately tagged with a time and location of storage on each bag. Following this process, the property is delivered to a City of Toronto storage facility where the property is logged and stored.

The following items may be collected and stored:

  • Any form of personal identification (i.e. Birth Certificate, Passport, License etc.)
  • Backpacks/purses/wallets
  • Prescribed medication
  • Important paperwork and photos
  • Tents
  • Sleeping bags, bedding, blankets
  • Clothing, shoes, boots
  • Cell phones & computers

Items that are water-logged, soiled with human or animal feces, other biohazards, or that in the opinion of the City cannot be stored, will not be collected or stored.

The City will not allow tents/structures, belongings or debris to be left behind when someone moves into shelter or housing

The City will not store pods or wooden sheds.

Long-term storage

To mitigate hesitancy to coming inside, long-term storage can be arranged for encampment occupants who have accepted a referral into the shelter system. Items will be stored for 6 months as individuals work toward housing. Delivery of stored items may be arranged once they have moved into permanent housing.

Retrieval process

Individuals may inquire with the City to locate their property and arrange a time to pick items up. Individuals should call 416-338-1876 and leave a detailed message and provide a phone number, email or location they may be found for staff to return items. All calls will be returned within 48 hours (Monday to Friday).

Waste Disposal

City staff assist with collecting, transporting, processing, composting and disposing of solid waste from encampments, including garbage, recyclable material, organic waste, electronics, propane cylinders and other hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste may include items such as clothing, mattresses, tents or other items contaminated by pests, fluids, human waste or chemicals.

The removal of tents and debris is often aided by the use of machinery for the protection of staff as tents, mattresses, sleeping bags and other items may be contaminated or contain sharp objects.


Improperly discarded needles and harm reduction supplies found in communities and encampments have been identified as a safety concern. The City of Toronto will collect needles and harm reduction supplies, such as substance use pipes, from City property including City parks, right-of-ways, ravines and other locations. Residents are advised not to touch or try to remove needles and to contact 311 for safe removal.

Learn more about Needle Safety.

Fencing and Park Regeneration

Fencing may be necessary to assist with park regeneration, including removal of fine debris and hazards (like needle tips or broken glass), removal and aeration of soil/sand, weekly applications of seed and fertilizer applications, pest removal, tree inspection and/or planting.

The fencing allows for staff to work while ensuring public safety and for initial plant and grass growth that would not be possible with pedestrians or cyclists.

Municipal Licensing and Standards and Corporate Security staff proactively monitor parks and play a critical role in responding to any new encampments. They are supported by contracted security companies that also monitor parks to deter and identify potential encampments using a combination of on-site security and mobile security teams.

The primary duty of contracted guards in City parks is to observe and report on encampments. Contracted security services are not directly responsible for bylaw enforcement. Should a contracted security guard witness a structure or tent being erected in a park, they will contact the Encampment Office immediately and outreach teams will quickly engage with encampment occupants, offering services and referrals to indoor accommodation that may be available.

Security guards may encounter situations in which they witness or are alerted to indictable, summary, or criminal offences and may need to intervene and / or perform a citizen’s arrest according to the Ontario Trespass to Property Act or the Criminal Code, Canada. In these situations, guards would call both police and Corporate Security for assistance. All licensed security guards in Ontario are regulated by the Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005.

Contracted guards are also on-site during trespass enforcement and debris removal operations to monitor the safety of staff.

Encampment Enforcement

The City operates a system of more than 1,500 parks and ravines as shared recreational spaces for the benefit of the community. All members of the community are welcome to use the City’s parks, so long as they abide by the terms of the City’s Parks Bylaw. The Parks Bylaw prohibits encroaching upon or taking possession of a park by installing a structure on park land; occupying a park for non-recreational uses; and camping, tenting, or otherwise living in parks.

The City also operates a road system for the benefit of the community. The City’s Streets and Sidewalks Bylaw prohibits obstructing a street or right-of-way. Transportation Services responds to encampments on the City’s right-of-ways and refers occupants to outreach providers for support before determining next steps.

Any tent or structure that encroaches on a City park or right-of-way for the purpose of living or occupying a space is considered an illegal encampment and subject to a trespass notice or notice of violation followed by enforcement.

Trespass enforcement only occurs if referrals to inside space and supports are available at the time of enforcement and have been refused. The City reserves the right to enforce the Ontario Trespass to Property Act when other options have been exhausted.

Across the city’s encampments, the majority of tent reductions are a direct result of City and community partner outreach efforts as encampment occupants move to the shelter system or permanent housing.

These efforts take time. Building relationships and trust with encampment occupants requires regular visits and interactions. There are also significant occupancy pressures on the shelter system, combined with a lack of affordable housing, which means outreach staff may not have as many referral options that can best meets an individual’s needs.

In July 2022, the City accepted the recommendations contained in the Ombudsman Toronto interim report Investigation into the City’s Processes for Clearing Encampments 2021. In March 2023, the City also accepted the recommendations in the Ombudsman Toronto final report Investigation into the City’s clearing of Encampments in Summer 2021.

Toronto’s Ombudsman identified the importance of updating the City’s 2005 Encampment Interdepartmental Protocol (IDP) that was adopted by Council in 2005.

To effectively update the Protocol, the City is consulting with people with lived experiences in encampments, community organizations that provide services to people impacted by homelessness, and internal and external stakeholders working in the fields of homelessness and human rights. There will also be additional consultations to solicit the unique feedback of Indigenous Peoples with lived experience and Indigenous service providers.

To learn more or to provide feedback on the consultations, visit

A staff report on the City’s encampment approach is expected in Q2, 2024.


Call 311 to request help for individuals experiencing homelessness who may need support.

If residents have concerns related to a new encampment, they are advised to contact 311 to provide details and the location of the encampment.

The City will respond to new, established, or growing encampment locations by deploying various City resources and outreach services to respond and engage with occupants to determine their needs and offer services.

Central Intake

Telephone support for individuals seeking access to emergency shelter.

Call: 416-397-5637


Call 911 to report emergencies related to encampment fires, injuries, life safety or Criminal Code offences.

Police Non-Emergency

To report crimes where no person is in immediate danger such as:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Trespassing
  • Panhandling

Call: 416-808-2222 or for Teletypewriter 416-467-0493

Toronto Fire Services

To discuss general non-emergency fire safety concerns related to an encampment.

Call: 416-338-9375 or email:

Belongings Retrieval

Individuals who have moved to shelter or housing and have stored their belongings with the City can arrange a time to pick the items up.

  • Call 416-338-1876 and leave a detailed message, along with a phone number, email or location where staff can return the items
  • Calls will be returned within 48 hours (Monday to Friday)


Get information on how to submit a complaint on shelter services, including outreach and encampments. Complaints can also be sent to:

  • 416-392-8741