On November 7, the City announced details of its 2022-2023 Winter Services Plan to ensure safe and welcoming places for people experiencing homelessness during the coming winter weather. All actions being taken by the City to prepare for winter will create more than 1,000 additional spaces for people in need this winter.

Toronto’s shelter system is currently accommodating more people than it ever has before (see currently occupancy). Despite continually adding new beds, the shelter system is at capacity most nights.

There are undeniable pressures on the shelter system, and the City expects demand to continue to rise during the winter months. To respond to increased need for shelter generally, and to meet additional winter needs, the City is:

  • maintaining and adding space in the shelter system
  • activating Warming Centres
  • enhancing street outreach
  • developing supportive housing

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. The City continues to work closely with both the provincial and federal governments to secure additional needed investment to help build supportive and affordable housing, ensure that there is safe indoor shelter space and access to critical supports to prevent homelessness.

The Winter Services Plan will add approximately 230 additional spaces into the shelter system:

  • 132 spaces for singles through expanding capacity at existing shelter sites
  • 100 hotel rooms for refugee singles and families, which will help free up space in the base shelter system by allowing refugee claimants currently in non-refugee specific shelters to move to this program

In addition to the spaces created by the Winter Services Plan, and as directed by Council in April 2022, the City is introducing safe and moderate increases to capacity in the shelter system to help ensure as many people as possible can access the services they need this winter.

Where increased capacity is needed, changes in bed separation will be adjusted from 2 metres laterally, to 1.25 metres. This work will be implemented through a phased approach, following rigorous infection prevention and control measures, and is estimated to increase capacity by an additional 500 beds over and above space being created through the Winter Services Plan.

In addition to shelter capacity being added, the City will activate Warming Centres during periods of extreme cold weather.

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.

See the locations and learn more about Warming Centre services.

The City is working with landlords and partners in the real estate sector to secure an additional site to serve as a Warming Centre during extreme cold weather. Information will be shared publicly as the new site is confirmed.

During Extreme Cold Weather Alerts (ECWAs), 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.

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.

During extreme cold:

  • 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 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.

The City anticipates that more than 400 new affordable homes with supports will be available for occupancy throughout the upcoming winter season. These homes will be prioritized for people experiencing homelessness who are staying in emergency shelters or living outdoors.

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 2021, over 3,400 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).