To ensure safe and welcoming places for people who need them during the coming cold weather, the City of Toronto is implementing a winter services plan that includes maintaining temporary shelters, adding additional shelter space and opening new affordable homes. The City will also activate Warming Centres and additional street outreach when an Extreme Cold Weather Alert is issued.
Toronto – like all cities – continues to experience significant demand for emergency shelter. The City has the largest shelter system in Canada, providing space for approximately 6,800 individuals. The system is composed of 75 permanent shelters and 24-hour respite sites. As part of the City’s response to COVID-19, the City is also currently operating 26 temporary sites to create physical distancing in the shelter system and provide space for people to move indoors from encampments. The City continues to follow public health guidance regarding physical distancing and plans to continue services at these temporary shelters until at least April 2022 to mitigate the need for transitions during the winter.
The City plans to continue to offer 450 spaces that were kept open from the 2020/21 winter season. These beds, originally planned to close in April 2021, have remained available to provide additional capacity throughout the pandemic. The City also opened two new sites over the early summer and fall to add another 68 beds.
Over the past five years, the City has continuously added and maintained new capacity. As a result, the number of beds currently available for individuals or couples experiencing homelessness is the highest in five years.
On top of these 518 beds added throughout the past year, the City will also add additional capacity for at least 200 people each night this winter through the following:
• 58 new beds for all genders at 101 Placer Court, set to open December 2021
• 50 spaces at the Better Living Centre for all genders
• 50 hotel rooms added to an existing site in North York
• 45 hotel rooms added to existing sites in Scarborough
All shelters in Toronto work from a housing first model, with a priority to assist clients to secure permanent housing and provide support to help with the transition. From April 2020 to September 2021, the City has moved close to 6,900 people experiencing homelessness from the shelter system into permanent housing, including to over 500 supportive homes created through modular construction, acquisition and conversion, and leveraging vacant units within the Toronto Community Housing portfolio.
The City will continue to implement the Council direction to add 1,248 supportive homes in 2021/22 including over 300 homes that will be available for phased-in occupancy this winter.
In addition to new shelter spaces and affordable supportive homes, the City will activate 150 spaces at four Warming Centres when an Extreme Cold Weather Alert (ECWA) is issued by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health based on information from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Warming Centres will be available at the Better Living Centre, 129 Peter Street, 5800 Yonge Street and the Scarborough Civic Centre. A TTC bus will provide transportation between the sites from evening until early morning at approximately 2 a.m.
During ECWAs, the City will dispatch additional Streets to Homes outreach teams to provide wellness checks and encourage people staying outside to come indoors. Staff will also hand out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing.
The City will continue to monitor the needs for spaces and services and will adapt to respond to changing circumstances.
All services identified under the 2021/22 winter plan will be operated in accordance with ongoing COVID-19 protocols, which includes encouraging physical distancing, hand washing, mandatory use of masks, symptom screening and monitoring, enhanced cleaning, and providing isolation and recovery sites for individuals that await results or test positive to recover. Toronto Public Health and healthcare partners continue to attend shelters, drop-ins and encampment sites to provide vaccines to individuals experiencing homelessness.
The City – with the help of the federal and provincial governments – is investing $663.2 million this year to continue to support homelessness and housing first solutions.
To learn more about the winter plan, visit Winter Services Plan for People Experiencing Homelessness
Information about all services for people experiencing homelessness is available at Homeless Help
To access a shelter call 311 or Central Intake at 416-338-4766, 1-877-338-3398.
Residents should contact 311 if they see a person experiencing homelessness in need of assistance and the City will dispatch an outreach team to investigate. If the person is in distress or needs immediate assistance, call 911.
“Throughout the pandemic the City has been taking extraordinary measures to help support people experiencing homelessness in Toronto. The City’s winter services plan, and the City’s non-stop efforts to create more affordable and supportive housing as quickly as possible, provides essential services and additional safe, indoor shelter to help ensure those most vulnerable have a safe place to go when they need it.”
– Toronto Mayor John Tory
“This plan’s core mission is to protect the city’s most marginalized residents through the winter. It adds safe and welcoming capacity to the shelter system and encourages those living outdoors, including people living in encampments, to come in from the cold to places where they have access to essential services and supports.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee
“The City continues to work closely with its partner agencies to help those living outdoors and in encampments. We will continue this work leading into and throughout the winter season to monitor demand and will work to adapt response where possible.”
– Gordon Tanner, Acting General Manager, Shelter, Support & Housing Administration
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.