November 28, 2018
On April 26, 2018 the City conducted its fourth Street Needs Assessment. The 2018 Street Needs Assessment (SNA) is a needs assessment survey and point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto. The results provide a snapshot of the scope and profile of the City’s homeless population. Additionally, the results give people experiencing homelessness a voice in what services they need in order to find, secure and keep housing.
Over the course of the night, volunteers and City staff conducted a 23-question survey with more than 2,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in various circumstances, including those outdoors in public city spaces, those in emergency and transitional shelters (including Violence Against Women shelters administered by the Province), and 24-hour respite sites. The City also collected occupancy data of those people identified as experiencing homelessness from health and treatment and correctional facilities. The SNA includes individuals experiencing absolute homelessness (indoor and outdoor), but does not capture the hidden homeless population (often referred to as “couch surfing”, this can also describe people who are staying with relatives, friends, neighbours or strangers).
The City’s homelessness count was part of the federal government’s national coordinated point-in-time count and results will be included in the 2018 national snapshot of homelessness. In addition, the provincial government has recently made local homeless enumeration on a bi-annual basis a legislated requirement for Ontario municipalities. Results will be provided to the Province to better understand the scale and nature of homelessness across Ontario.
The 2018 SNA introduced Indigenous team leads and Indigenous Cultural Safety training for all participants – led by the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC). Representatives from TASSC and Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness (TAEH) also participated on the SNA steering committee.
Direct costs of administering the 2018 SNA were approximately $250,000, funded by the federal government.
Key Findings from the 2018 SNA Include
- The number of people homeless in Toronto is due, in large part, to a significant increase in refugee/asylum claimants.
- In line with City occupancy data, the survey confirmed that 40 per cent of respondents staying in City-administered shelters identified as refugee/asylum claimants.
- 30 per cent of all respondents stated they came to Canada as refugees/asylum claimants.
- Based on the survey, the top three causes of homelessness were identified as migration, an inability to pay the cost of housing and eviction.
- The most important supports to help people experiencing homelessness to find housing are those that increase income and housing affordability.
- The total estimated homeless population in Toronto on April 26, 2018 is 8,715.
- 82 per cent of people experiencing homelessness were staying in City-administered sites.
- 94 per cent of people experiencing homelessness were staying indoors; the number of people staying outdoors is estimated to be 533, or six per cent of the total homeless population in Toronto.
- Homelessness affects people from different backgrounds; however, the SNA results show that specific groups are overrepresented in Toronto’s homeless population. Specifically, the results indicate that:
- 38 per cent of respondents experiencing outdoor homelessness identified as Indigenous.
- 11 per cent of respondents identified as LGBTQ2S – this was significantly higher among youth respondents (24 per cent)
- 13 per cent of respondents experiencing outdoor homelessness were veterans
- 10 per cent of respondents were seniors (60 and over), and 10 per cent were youth (16 to 24)
- Half of all respondents reported being homeless for six months or more in the past year – this was significantly higher among the outdoor population (70 per cent)
- 94 per cent of respondents want permanent housing.
Toronto’s Response to Homelessness
The findings from the 2018 Street Needs Assessment show that the number of people experiencing homelessness has increased since 2013. This is consistent with the increasing pressures on the emergency shelter system over the past year.
Based on 2018 SNA results, recommendations to further enhance services to meet the specific needs of different populations experiencing homelessness will be included in future staff reports once Council is in session in 2019, and will be critical to informing the development of the City’s new ten-year Housing Opportunities Toronto plan and Shelter, Support and Housing Administration’s new five-year service plan.
These recommendations will build on current work already underway to respond to homelessness, including:
- The creation of 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020 – with 102 available by the end of this year and approximately 300 confirmed for 2019.
- The addition of more than 2,400 shelter/motel beds over the past two years in response to increased demand.
- The availability of up to 600 24-hour respite site spaces on an ongoing basis.
- The addition of two 24-hour women’s drop-ins opened to better address the needs of women experiencing homelessness.
- The opening of YMCA Sprott House in 2016, and Egale Centre scheduled to open in 2019 to better address the needs of LGBTQ2 people experiencing homelessness.
- The development of a new shelter program at 3306 Kingston Road, and the work being done through the George Street Revitalization project to better address the needs of seniors.
- The Meeting in the Middle Indigenous Engagement Strategy and Action Plan developed with Indigenous community partners to identify actions to meaningfully address Indigenous homelessness in Toronto.
- The implementation and evaluation of the Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC) pilot to support tenants facing imminent risk of eviction. In its first year, the pilot prevented the eviction of more than 200 households (over 400 individuals).
- Providing approximately 2,000 formerly homeless households a housing allowance to assist them with moving costs and housing affordability.
- The implementation of the provincial Home for Good program with $90 million in funding over three years to create housing with supports for 2,000 people experiencing homelessness.
- The move of more than 2,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness from shelters and the streets into housing since 2016 through the City’s Housing First approach.
Longer-term, permanent housing remains the best approach to reduce homelessness. Housing First aims to reduce the number of people becoming homeless, increase people moving into housing and provide the supports needed for them to remain housed.
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