The 2023/2024 Winter Services Plan outlines measures the City is taking to support people experiencing homelessness during the cold winter season (November 15 to April 15), when health and safety risks are higher than normal.

Preparation for winter 2023/2024 began at the end of the last winter season in April 2023 and included identifying and securing Warming Centre locations and/or 24-hour respite sites, as well as incorporating feedback to improve planning and coordination of services.

The 2023/2024 Winter Services Plan includes:

  • maintaining and adding space in the shelter system
  • activating four Warming Centres and a number of new 24-hour winter respite sites
  • extending hours at several City-funded drop-in programs
  • enhancing street outreach
  • opening new supportive homes and accessing available social housing units with supports
  • adding surge capacity during periods of extreme cold

More on each component of the Winter Services Plan can be found in the tabs below.

The Winter Services Plan is designed to be adaptive and can evolve to respond to changing needs, as required, throughout the winter. City staff will continue to explore opportunities to secure additional sites across the city to maximize spaces available for those in need.

In addition to the more than 9,000 spaces currently offered in the shelter system, the City has continued work started in the spring to reduce lateral bed separation to 0.75 metres at select shelter sites. This has added approximately 180 new shelter spaces since the Winter Services Plan kicked off on November 15.

Adding shelter space during colder temperatures is critical to help move people who are sleeping outdoors into indoor space, including those people currently sleeping in encampments and on the transit system.

Warming Centres

Warming Centres give those who are vulnerable and may be experiencing homelessness a safe indoor and warm place to rest and access snacks, washroom facilities and referrals to emergency shelter.

This winter, the City will activate approximately 180 spaces at four Warming Centres when temperatures reach minus 5 degrees Celsius and/or when Environment and Climate Change Canada issues a winter weather event warning.

When temperatures fall to minus 15 degrees Celsius, the City will also activate an additional surge site offering another 30 Warming Centre spaces.

See the locations, learn more about the services, and sign up to be notified when Warming Centres open and close.

24-hour winter respite sites

Since the start of the Winter Services Plan on November 15, the City has opened the following 24-hour winter respite sites:

  • 20 Gerrard St. E. The site, which opened on November 15, is operated by Covenant House and offers 30 much-needed spaces for vulnerable youth
  • 502 Spadina Ave. The site, operated by Scott Mission, opened on November 27 and offers 50 spaces for male-identified clients
  • Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Blvd. The site, which opened on December 21, features two programs. The programs are run by Fred Victor and Dixon Hall, and offer a combined total of 300 all-gender spaces.

Unlike Warming Centres, which are activated when a specific temperature threshold is reached, the 24-hour winter respite sites will be open for the duration of the winter season.

To access space in the 24-hour winter respite sites, individuals are encouraged to call Central Intake at 416-338-4766, 1-877-338-3398.

Learn more about 24-Hour Respite Sites.

As part of the Winter Services Plan, 10 drop-in providers have extended their hours of operations for the winter season. Drop-ins provide a range of services that may include food, healthcare, showers, laundry, information and referrals, and social and recreational activities to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

See a list of locations and operating hours for each site.

The City’s Streets to Homes program provides outreach to those living outdoors and in encampments 365 days a year, seven days a week.

Throughout the winter, outreach teams provide blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter clothing to those living outdoors. When temperatures reach minus 15 degrees Celsius or colder, the City will dispatch additional street outreach teams to perform wellness checks and encourage people to come indoors.

To support people experiencing homelessness and individuals with complex needs that may seek shelter on the transit system, Streets to Homes will continue to provide outreach on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) on a 24/7 basis.

20 Streets to Homes staff remain dedicated to providing service on the TTC, connecting people with shelter and housing services.

In addition, the one-year, LOFT Community Services Multi-Disciplinary Outreach Team pilot program, providing transitional services to individuals with complex psychiatric and/or concurrent disorders, will be extended to 2025.

All shelters in Toronto work from a housing first model, with a priority to assist clients to secure permanent affordable rental housing with supports to help with the transition.

During the 2023-2024 winter season, up to 275 housing units are expected to become available to move people experiencing homelessness from shelter into permanent housing. This will include approximately 200 units under the Rapid Rehousing Program, and approximately 75 units under the Priority Access to Housing and Supports (PATHS) program.

The HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan targets the approval of 47,500 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive homes with approximately 6,500 rent-geared-to-income homes by 2030. Additional funding from the Federal and Provincial Governments is needed to meet these targets and respond to the housing and homelessness crisis in Toronto.

Details of the City’s Winter Services Plan are outlined in the “Shelter System Pressures and Responses, including Planning for Winter 2023/2024” report that was adopted by City Council on November 8.