As part of the comprehensive COVID-19 response plan for people experiencing homelessness, the City of Toronto and community partners mobilized a strategy for outreach to people staying in encampments that prioritizes health and safety.
Since April, the City has:
Since mid-March, the City has successfully moved more than 1,300 people who were homeless into permanent housing. This is through a combination of housing allowances and rent-geared-to-income units.
The City also established two first-of-its kind in Canada recovery and isolation facilities for homeless individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 where they could safely recover with wrap-around medical care.
Moving people from outside to inside spaces is done with dignity and a plan to support each client’s needs. It takes careful planning to secure hotels, interim housing and additional shelter space including staffing and programming; contracts for linens, meals, laundry and cleaning; and coordinating transportation for clients and their belongings.
The City’s approach to encampments is a multidisciplinary effort with staff from Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Transportation Services, Solid Waste Management Services, and Shelter, Support and Housing Administration with support from Municipal Licensing and Standards and Toronto Police Service to ensure the safety of all.
The City’s Streets to Homes outreach staff and external agencies work with individuals daily to conduct wellness checks and offer all people sleeping outside access to inside space in advance of any move of an encampment site. In the last 10 years, Streets to Homes has successfully housed more than 6,000 people who were staying outside, and more than 80 per cent remain housed after one year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, if an encampment is vacated by individuals choosing to access shelter, respite sites, hotels or housing, then the site is cleaned by City staff. Outreach teams approach people at encampments days in advance of any moves. If an offer to access these supports is refused, a notification of encampment clearing is issued, and the site is cleared by City staff and contracted services.
Camping outdoors in parks and rights-of-way is prohibited in the city of Toronto. Open flames, generators, propane tanks, and lack of access to water and sanitation increases health and safety risks for individuals, as well as to the community in general. The City has implemented rigorous Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures at all City-run and funded sites in the shelter system to minimize the spread of COVID and protect clients.
The City of Toronto remains focused on the safety of those in encampments and on moving people sleeping outdoors to safe indoor space. The City continues to secure spaces to offer to people who are staying at encampments throughout the city.
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.