On October 22, the City announced details of its 2021-2022 winter services plan to ensure safe and welcoming places for people experiencing homelessness during the coming winter weather.

Toronto has the largest shelter system in Canada, currently providing space for approximately 7, 250 individuals. The system is composed of 75 shelters and 24-hour respite sites, as well as 26 temporary sites that were open to create physical distancing in the shelter system and provide space for people to move indoors from encampments.

The winter plan will enhance services to help protect people during the winter by:

  • continuing to maintain the 2021-2022 winter season capacity that is still operating
  • adding new capacity throughout the winter season
  • moving people from shelters and encampments into new supportive housing units
  • activating Warming Centres and additional street outreach during Extreme Cold Weather Alerts

All services identified under the 2021-2022 winter plan have been considered from the lens of providing safer services during the pandemic.

Services will be available until at least April 15, 2022. Need for services will be monitored and adapted as required to respond to changing circumstances.

Maintaining 2020-2021 winter season capacity

The City plans to continue to offer 450 spaces that were kept open from the 2020-2021 winter season. These beds, originally planned to close in April 2021, have remained available to provide additional capacity throughout the pandemic.

The City also opened the following sites over the early summer and fall of 2021 to add another 83 beds:

  • 4117 Lawrence Ave. E., 55 physically distanced beds
  • 2671 Islington Ave., 28 physically distanced beds

Over the past five years, the City has continuously maintained and added capacity for singles and couples. As a result, the number of beds currently available for individuals or couples experiencing homelessness is the highest in five years.

New 2021-2022 winter season capacity

The City has added additional capacity this winter through the following:

  • 60 spaces at the Better Living Centre for all genders
  • 271 spaces through expanded capacity at existing sites
  • 51 new beds for all genders at 101 Placer Court
  • spaces at temporary 24-hour respite sites at community centres

24-Hour Respite sites

A temporary 24-hour respite site has been activated at:

  • Warden Hilltop Community Centre, 25 Mendelssohn St., operated by the City, 55 spaces

The City also continues 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:

  • 25 Augusta Ave., operated by St. Felix Centre, 19 spaces
  • 705 Progress Ave., Unit 29, operated by Warden Woods, 34 spaces
  • 21 Park Rd., operated by Margaret’s, 27 spaces
  • 69 Fraser Ave. (part of the parking lot behind Lamport Stadium), operated by St. Felix, 43 spaces
  • 351 Lake Shore Blvd. E., operated by Dixon Hall, 44 spaces
  • 1A Strachan Ave., operated by Fred Victor, 45 spaces

24-hour 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. 24-hour 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:

  • direct contact with a service provider
  • calling 311
  • calling Central Intake at 416-338-4766, 1-877-338-3398 toll-free

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 City will continue to implement the Council direction to add 1,248 supportive homes in 2021-2022, including over 300 homes that will be available for phased-in occupancy this winter.

Get more details on affordable and supportive housing in Toronto.

Staff 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. In 2020, over 6,000 people experiencing homelessness moved from the shelter system into permanent housing (see the City’s Shelter System Flow Data for latest data on people moving into permanent housing).

In addition to shelter capacity being added, the City will activate approximately 165 spaces at four Warming Centres when an Extreme Cold Weather Alert (ECWA) is issued by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, based on information from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Space will be offered at the following:

  • 129 Peter St.
  • 5800 Yonge St.
  • Exhibition Place, Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Blvd.
  • Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.

A TTC bus will provide transportation between the sites from evening until early morning at approximately 2 a.m.

All Warming Centres are pet-friendly.

Learn more about the services offered at Warming Centres.

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

This includes:

  • handing out water
  • providing health and harm reduction supplies
  • offering a range of services, including access to shelter or other transitional opportunities, help with accessing income, access to health care and developing a case plan to move into housing.

Throughout the winter, outreach staff will hand out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing.

When an Extreme Cold Weather Alert is called:

  • The City will dispatch an additional team for day and evening shifts and two additional overnight teams. This represents an increase from five to six teams during the day, three to four in the evening, and two to four teams overnight.
  • Three partner outreach agencies, NaMeRes, Albion and Agincourt, will provide enhanced outreach services extended to midnight.
  • The approach to outreach will shift from assisting with housing to focusing primarily on wellness checks and encouraging people staying outside to come indoors.

All services identified under the 2021-2022 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:

  • encouraging physical distancing in all areas of the shelter, including washrooms and dining and common areas
  • ensuring physical distancing of at least 2-metres laterally between beds in order to meet City shelter standards, which are based on Ministry of Health guidance for congregate living settings during the pandemic
  • ensuring the mandatory use of masks and protective eyewear for staff throughout shifts and medical or three-layer masks for clients in all common areas
  • utilizing standard symptom screening at all points of entry into the shelter system and conducting active daily screening and monitoring of all clients and staff for symptoms of COVID-19
  • increasing infection control and prevention activities, including enhanced cleaning protocols
  • encouraging healthy habits such as hand washing and covering coughs or sneezing into an elbow or tissue
  • providing ongoing isolation and recovery sites with supports for clients who await test results or test positive to recover

Vaccination Efforts

The City continues to work as quickly as possible with healthcare partners and the Province to roll out first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to people experiencing homelessness and frontline workers in the homelessness sector. Local hospitals, Ontario Health Teams, Local Health Integration Networks, family doctors and community-based health care service providers are working together to vaccinate people experiencing homelessness staying in shelters and respite sites, accessing drop-ins and living in encampments. Mobile and onsite clinics continue to be offered throughout the shelter system on an ongoing basis.