October 2017

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 (1.3 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 ten 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 8 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
  • These are mostly families with children needing shelter, support and services to get going on their Canadian journey and more than half are under 15
  • In the past, motel and hotel programs have proven an effective response to surges in demand from those seeking refugee claims due to the ability to relatively quickly adjust to surges in demand and the fact that most surges have been temporary
  • Within the past 18 months, the number of refugee claimants in the emergency shelter system has gone up almost three times to 1,270 a night in September 2017 from 460 a night in February 2016
  • More than a quarter of those in City-administered shelters are refugee claimants
  • Information about services for those experiencing homelessness is available at www.toronto.ca/homelesshelp, a map-based app developed by the City to make accessing this information as easy as possible

– 30 –


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