Fact Sheet: City of Toronto’s Emergency Shelter System & Winter Services Plan for People Experiencing Homelessness
Last updated: November 18, 2019
The City of Toronto provides temporary shelter and housing help services for people experiencing homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Toronto’s emergency shelter system is delivered through a network of City-owned and leased facilities in collaboration with community-based partner agencies.
Facts & Figures
- 4,791 emergency and transitional shelter beds
- 2,319 beds in motel/hotels for families
- 7,219 total overnight shelter bed capacity across the system
- 120 spaces at two 24-hour women’s drop-in services
- 899 temporary winter spaces, including 464 24-Hour Respite Site spaces
Of the 7,219 shelter beds:
- 1,876 are for men
- 940 are for women
- 819 are all-gender
- 543 are for youth
- 722 are for families
The shelter system is comprised of
- 10 emergency shelter locations, City-run
- 53 emergency shelter locations, agency-operated
- Seven 24-Hour Respite Sites, agency-operated
- 16 Out of the Cold programs delivered by inter-denominational faith-based groups and coordinated by Dixon Hall (number of spaces vary, with a minimum of 60 to a maximum of 150. depending on how many locations are open on a single night)
- 32 partner agencies delivering services across the city
- More than 25,000 different people access the shelter system in a year
- More than 8,000 people are assisted to move into housing from shelter each year
From the 2018 Toronto’s Street Needs Assessment:
- 22 per cent of people in shelter who were not refugees or asylum claimants, moved to Toronto within the past two years; of the 22 per cent
- 55 per cent came from another Ontario municipality (or 12 per cent of the total)
- 27 per cent came from another province (6 per cent of the total)
- 20 per cent came from another country (4.5 per cent of the total)
Services Types & Definitions
Shelters provide temporary accommodation and related support services that assist people to move into housing. Emergency shelters can be accessed by any individual or family experiencing homelessness with or without a referral.
A homeless shelter program that provides required, specialized programming and can be accessed by eligible individuals and families experiencing homelessness by referral only.
24-Hour Respite Sites
Provides essential services to individuals experiencing homelessness in an environment that prioritizes ease of access to safe indoor space. Services provided include resting spaces, meals and service referrals. An allied shelter service that operates on a 24/7 basis.
Allied shelter services
Emergency overnight spaces that offer a safe, warm indoor space and connections to other supports to meet the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness. Provided to respond to increased demand for homeless shelters and/or operate from a low-barrier approach to serve people who may otherwise not access homeless shelters.
Out of the Cold (OOTC)
From November to April, the OOTC program provides overnight sleeping spaces as well as meals delivered by volunteers in a network of inter-denominational by faith-based groups across the City of Toronto and coordinated by Dixon Hall. Services vary, depending on the location, and may include showers, laundry, clothing, and service referrals.
Street outreach services and the Streets to Homes (S2H) Program
Services targeted to engage people experiencing homelessness who are sleeping outdoors, with a focus on establishing supportive relationships as a first step to addressing their immediate health and safety needs as well as providing supports to move into housing and follow-up supports. Operate year-round throughout the city as part of the Streets to Homes Program.
Hotel/motel shelter program
Provides shelter beds through contracts with hotel/motel operators, which enables the City to expand and contract emergency shelter capacity in response to demand for services. Typically assigned to families
Provides daytime locations that offer access to a range of services which may include food, showers, laundry facilities, health services, information and referrals, and social and recreational activities. Services are provided in a welcoming, safe and non-stigmatizing environment. Operate year-round.
Provides immediate safe indoor space for people during Extreme Cold Weather Alerts. Facilities vary, but often include City of Toronto buildings or community recreation centres. Services vary, depending on the facility, and may include at a minimum resting spaces, snacks and referrals to emergency shelter. An allied shelter service that operates on a 24/7 basis for the duration of an extreme cold weather alert.
Provides a 24/7 telephone-based service that offers referrals to emergency shelter programs and other overnight accommodation, as well as information about other housing stability services.
Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre (SHARC)
Provides a 24/7 walk-in service that offers single individuals and couples referrals to emergency shelter programs and other overnight accommodation, as well as information about other housing stability services. Other services onsite include a respite, a housing walk-in program for Streets to Homes Program clients and a transitional shelter program for Streets to Homes clients engaged in a housing plan. Located at 129 Peter St.
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.
A wide variety of programs and services to support currently homeless persons moving into housing solutions as well as supports for people at risk of losing their housing. Examples of such programs range from rental subsidies, furniture banks and mental health services to rent banks and tenant/landlord advocacy.
A housing subsidy or benefit to make rent affordable for households. In most cases, the rent at a subsidized unit is set to be 30 per cent of a household’s total monthly income before taxes and adjustments. Currently the number of people needing subsidized housing is greater than the number of units available. As a result, it can take years for an applicant to get housed. Access to Housing manages the waiting list for subsidized housing.
Potential option for people with special situations.
- Housing supports administered by the City (more than 9,000 units) for people who have exited homelessness and have moved into housing. Supports can be provided in the private market or through non-profit housing providers and emphasize the provision and maintenance of stable housing and community integration.
- Access Point for people with mental illness and/or substance use issues as well as those involved with the criminal justice system.
- Centre for Independent Living for those with disabilities.
- Developmental Services Ontario for those with developmental disabilities.
Social housing provided for four years or less to people who need some structure, support and skill building as they move from homelessness to permanent housing.