The City’s 2020-21 winter services plan provides additional spaces and services to help those experiencing homelessness during colder winter weather.
The winter plan will provide approximately 620 additional spaces through a combination of shelter and 24-hour respite beds, hotel rooms and housing units with supports.
During Extreme Cold Weather Alerts, the City will also activate additional space at Warming Centres, and enhanced street outreach response to help support and encourage those living outside to come indoors
Winter plan services will be available until April 15, 2021. The need for services will be monitored and adapted as required to respond to changing circumstances.
This is the fifth consecutive winter that the City has increased capacity of the shelter and 24-hour respite system.
New shelter and respite site spaces will be made available through:
In addition to the above, the City will provide 200 shelter system beds for single adults that were kept open and maintained from the 2019/2020 winter season. These beds, originally planned to close in April, were maintained to provide expanded response to the pandemic, if required.
Staff will continue to explore other opportunities that may arise. As with the COVID-19 response implemented to date, the winter services plan will continue to evolve and adapt to respond, as required.
The City will continue to provide spaces at 24-hour respite sites that operate year-round. The sites are operating at reduced capacities to meet physical distancing guidelines and are located at:
Respite sites are guided by Toronto’s 24-Hour Respite Standards and offer single adults and couples, along with their pets, a place to rest, have a meal and access service referrals. Respite sites prioritize ease of access to safe indoor space, especially to those who are vulnerable and who may not otherwise access shelters.
Shelter programs are guided by Toronto’s Shelter Standards and focus on getting people connected to the services they need to access permanent housing in the community.
Access to 24-hour respite sites and shelters can be made by:
All shelters in Toronto work from a housing first model, with a priority to assist clients to secure permanent housing and provide support to help with the transition.
The winter plan will introduce approximately 220 new housing units with supports through:
Staff will also continue to explore other opportunities that may arise.
This work is part of the City’s ongoing efforts to help individuals experiencing homeless secure permanent housing. Since March 2020, the City has permanently housed more than 2,800 individuals experiencing homelessness. This represents an increase of 50% over this time last year.
In addition to shelter capacity being added, the City will activate four Warming Centres if an Extreme Cold Weather Alert (ECWA) is issued by the City’s Office of Emergency Management, in consultation with Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, based on information from Environment and Climate Change Canada. This is the first year that the City has offered more than one Warming Centre, which will increase access to these services across Toronto.
Space will be offered at the following:
The City’s Streets to Home program provides outreach to those living outdoors and in encampments 365 days a year, seven days a week.
Throughout the winter, outreach staff will hand out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing.
If an Extreme Cold Weather Alert is called:
All services identified under the 2020-2021 winter plan have been considered from the lens of providing safer services during the pandemic. This includes the following measures, which will be in place throughout the winter:
In addition, in consultation with infection control experts, the City will be piloting the implementation of impermeable barriers between beds in congregate sleeping areas or double occupancy rooms, as a means to provide an additional measure of protection from the spread of COVID-19.
Learn more about the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 response for people experiencing homelessness.