June 2018

The key driver of homelessness in Toronto is the economy and the housing market:

  • Increasing costs of rental housing in Toronto over the past 10 years
  • Exacerbated by low vacancy rates (1.0 per cent) and a lack of new rental and affordable housing
  • Majority of shelter users are on Ontario Works (OW) (37 per cent) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) (29 per cent)
  • Stagnant social assistance rates that don’t respond to local economic factors contribute to the growing affordability gap
  • In the past 10 years, the average market rent for a one bedroom unit in Toronto has increased 26 per cent, while OW shelter benefit rates have increased only eight per cent
  • The affordability gap has increased from $553 in 2007 to $761 in 2016
  • Affordability is the most significant challenge in helping move people out of shelters

Another driver of homelessness is worldwide geopolitical issues:

  • Worldwide, the number of refugees is on the rise and more and more people are seeking refugee claims in Canada, with Toronto being a popular destination.
  • Toronto has seen significant fluctuations in the numbers of refugee claimants coming since 2001.
  • There has been a marked increase starting in late 2015 which intensified in 2017 and into 2018.
  • Many are families with children needing shelter, support and services to get going on their Canadian journey and more than half are under 15
  • Since 2016, the proportion of refugee claimants using the shelter system has increased significantly. The number of refugee claimants in Toronto’s shelter system on an average monthly night has increased from 459 (11.2% of the total system) in 2016 to 2,683 (40.8% of the total system) in May 2018.
  • To ensure that Toronto remains a safe, welcoming and accessible place for all, the City of Toronto requires urgent action be taken by the provincial and federal governments to help facilitate a coordinated and regional response to this increasing and acute challenge.
  • Since early 2017, City Council has made repeated requests to the federal and provincial governments to provide additional funding to help manage this surge. For more information about how the City of Toronto is responding to this issue, see this backgrounder.
  • Information about services for those experiencing homelessness is available at toronto.ca/homelesshelp, a map-based app developed by the City to make accessing this information as easy as possible.

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Media contact: Patricia Anderson, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, Patricia.Anderson@toronto.ca, 416-397-4328