Backgrounder: Winter Service Plan 2019-2020
On November 1, the City of Toronto announced details about the 2019-2020 winter service plan to ensure safe and welcoming places for people experiencing homelessness during the coming winter weather. The plan is informed by last winter’s experience and supported by previous recommendations from City Council and the City’s Ombudsman.
In addition to the existing shelter and 24-Hour Respite Site locations, the City is opening six new services across the City which will add a combination of 500 respite spaces and shelter beds. Each shelter program will be guided by Toronto’s Shelter Standards and focus on getting people connected to the services they need to access permanent housing in the community. Each 24-Hour Respite Site will be guided by Toronto’s 24-Hour Respite Standards and will offer single adults and couples, along with their pets, easy access to warm places to rest and to obtain meals and service referrals.
This is the sixth winter the City has increased the overall capacity of the shelter and 24-Hour Respite Site system. These services respond to increasing pressures from lack of housing affordability, increasing arrivals of refugee/asylum claimants and individuals from neighbouring municipalities where there are fewer homelessness services available than in Toronto along with the increasing cost of housing.
The location for the new 24-Hour Respite Site is:
- 25 Augusta Ave., 50 spaces operated by St. Felix opened October 15, 2019
The locations for the new shelter programs are:
- 85 spaces for single adults in a hotel-based pre-housing program to open November 4, 2019
- 339 George St. Seaton House, 100 beds to open late October to November 2019
- 545 Lakeshore Blvd., operated by Homes First Society 50 beds to open November 14, 2019
Finally, the City of Toronto opened a Temporary Refugee Response Site this winter for refugee/asylum claimants currently staying in the emergency shelter system. The site, located in North York, will be operated by Homes First Society and opened on November 12, 2019 with an initial capacity of 200 beds. City staff will work with all emergency shelter providers to create a pathway for refugee/asylum claimants to this program, where they will be able to access more specialized services to better meet their needs. The beds within the existing shelter system made available by moving these clients will in turn be available for non-refugee claimants needing access to shelter this winter.
Since 2016, the number of refugee/asylum claimants seeking emergency shelter in Toronto has steadily increased and now make up 36 per cent of people using the system. While the City has been successful in helping more than 10,500 refugee/asylum claimants find housing between January 1, 2018 and October 10, 2019, there continues to be a flow of new arrivals.
All the above services will be available until mid-April 2020.
In addition to these core winter services, City staff will make available additional services if an Extreme Cold Weather Alert (ECWA) by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. Under such circumstances, the City’s Streets to Homes Program will dispatch four mobile teams 24/7 to connect with people living outside encouraging them to come indoors.
The Metro Hall Warming Centre will also open with 50 spaces when an ECWA is issued. City staff will operate the centre which provides an additional space for people to come indoors and keep warm. Finally, during any extreme weather all shelters will be asked to relax service restrictions for clients and accept people that turn up at their doors seeking warmth. Drop-in programs across the city will have additional tokens on hand to distribute to people in need of transportation.
Since 2018, City staff have made a number of improvements that will result in better service for 24-Hour Respite Sites and shelter clients, quicker access to services, and tighter management of the routine and unexpected events that have an impact on the shelter and respite system. The improvements include:
- 24-Hour Respite Site Standards. These standards have been developed in consultation with operators and clients. The standards are designed to uphold the health, safety, and comfort of all service users and staff of 24-Hour Respite Sites.
- There is a full-time Community and Client Engagement Coordinator in each 24-Hour Respite Site to improve relations with the local community and improve client experiences at the sites.
- An expanded Central Intake staff complement equipped with appropriate technology are able to answer calls more efficiently, resulting in shorter wait times and more streamlined access to services.
- A 24/7 Duty Manager’s Office provides real time oversight and operational assistance to community and staff providers of service.
Access to 24-Hour Respite Sites and shelters is through 311, in-person at the Assessment and Referral Centre at 129 Peter St., and by direct contact with the service provider. Information about City-funded homelessness services is available at toronto.ca/homelesshelp.
24-Hour Respite Sites for winter 2019-20 season include:
- 25 Augusta Ave., operated by St. Felix Centre, capacity of 50
- 323 Dundas St. E., operated by Margaret’s, capacity of 35
- 705 Progress Ave., Unit 29, operated by Warden Woods, capacity of 49
- 21 Park Rd., operated by Margaret’s, capacity of 3069 Fraser Ave. (part of the parking lot behind Lamport Stadium), operated by St. Felix, capacity of 100
- 351 Lake Shore Blvd. E., operated by Dixon Hall, capacity of 100
- 1A Strachan Ave., operated by Fred Victor, capacity of 100
These efforts by the City build on current work already underway to respond to homelessness, including:
- The creation of 1,000 new shelter beds – with 465 opened by the end of this year and approximately 119 more confirmed for 2020.
- The addition of more than 2,400 shelter/motel beds over the past two years in response to increased demand.
- 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 2020 to better address the needs of LGBTQ2 people experiencing homelessness.
- The development of two new shelter programs for seniors at 3306 Kingston Rd. and 2671 Islington Ave., 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 of the Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC) program 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 $25 million in annual funding to create housing with supports for more than 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.
The City of Toronto, through the Housing Secretariat, is focused on long-term solutions like building new affordable and supportive housing. The City’s new 10-year affordable housing plan will be released in December, which will provide a comprehensive solutions-based plan to address housing and homelessness challenges over the next decade. The City relies on its partners in the provincial and federal governments for funding for permanent housing solutions, as well as funding to provide supports for refugee claimants who arrive in Toronto.
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Media Relations, City of Toronto, 416-338-5986, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Gonsalves, Strategic Communications, 416-397-4149, Andrea.Gonsalves@toronto.ca