The City of Toronto continues to assist and protect people experiencing homelessness through COVID-19 vaccination, an increased focus on infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures in the shelter system, a COVID-19 rapid testing program for new shelter residents and referring people to indoor accommodation and access to a housing worker. In the last four weeks, 115 people experiencing homelessness have been referred to safe indoor space. This week, 24 people were referred to safe indoor space from these four encampment sites: Moss Park, Alexandra Park, Lamport Stadium and Cherry Beach.
In addition, earlier this week, the City of Toronto successfully referred 14 people staying in an encampment at Trinity Bellwoods Park to either a shelter or hotel program. Please see June 23 news release for more information.
More than 14,600 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people experiencing homelessness and those precariously housed, and to staff working in the shelter sector. As of June 18, 56 per cent of people staying in the City’s shelter system that week had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Please see June 18 news release for more information on mobile vaccine clinics, the peer ambassador program, the IPAC measures in the City’s shelter system and rapid antigen testing program for new shelter residents.
As outlined in the recent City Manager’s report to City Council, encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code and are not a solution to homelessness. The health outcomes for people who stay outside are complex and serious. Individuals living in encampments are also at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The risk of fires is also high. There have been 117 fire events in encampments so far this year, including five in the past week. In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – a 247 per cent increase over the same period in 2019. The risk of serious injury or death to occupants of encampments, as well as to first responders and the public, as a result of fire, is serious.
City parks must also be safe and accessible to all residents of Toronto. As City crews removed debris from the encampment at Trinity Bellwoods Park this week, propane tanks and thousands of discarded needles were collected.
Currently, there are an estimated 40-60 people staying in encampments at Lamport Stadium, Moss Park and Alexandra Park, with far more tents and makeshift structures (more than 150) in those encampments than people.
Since mid-December 2020, the City has opened 244 new affordable and supportive homes, including 100 modular homes. Currently, there are 82 projects in the City’s affordable rental development pipeline, which will create 10,676 new permanently affordable rental homes once completed. Over the next 12 months, the City is aiming to make at least 1,248 new permanent affordable and supportive housing opportunities ready for occupancy. This includes 798 net new affordable and supportive rental homes under the HousingTO action plan.
To this end, over the last several months the City has announced nine new supportive housing projects representing more than 700 new homes across the city, through acquisition and renovation of existing properties or modular construction on City-owned or controlled lands. A map and information is available online.
Bringing people inside means there are fewer people experiencing homelessness living outdoors and exposed to higher risks of health and safety. Supportive housing offers a warm, safe place to call home; the necessities of life such as food, washrooms, and laundry; and the opportunity for strengthened community connections.
All occupants of encampments and residents in shelters, including the hotel program, are assigned a housing worker to help them move from a shelter into secure permanent housing.
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