To date, more than 7,100 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people experiencing homelessness, people who are precariously housed, as well as people working in the homelessness and housing sector through on-site clinics in the shelters or mobile clinics in the community.
The City of Toronto continues to expand mobile vaccine team capabilities to provide additional on-site clinics. To further immunize our most vulnerable residents, a group of paramedics, supported by The Sunnybrook Centre for Prehospital Medicine, Toronto Public Health (TPH) and Toronto firefighters are attending shelters, as well as drop-ins and encampment sites to immunize people seven days a week.
The City continues to support health care partners and the Province to roll-out vaccinations to people experiencing homelessness and frontline workers in the homelessness sector as quickly as possible.
Local hospitals, Ontario Health Teams, Local Health Integration Networks, family doctors and community-based health care service providers began vaccinating people experiencing homelessness staying in shelters and respite sites, accessing drop-ins, and living in encampments through onsite clinics starting the week of March 1.
The City is also providing additional opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and frontline staff in the homelessness sector through dedicated centralized clinics. As of May 14, 49 per cent of the adults staying in the City’s shelter system last week have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The City is committed to decreasing the risk of outbreaks in the shelter system by providing additional supports to ensure immunization and infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures, already established in these settings, are being followed and, where necessary, improved upon.
There has been a steady reduction in COVID-19 outbreaks over the last few weeks. As of May 19, there are nine confirmed outbreaks within the City’s shelter system. There are more than 6,000 shelter spaces in the city today. As of May 20, there is capacity in the shelter system for people staying in encampments who accept offers of safe, inside space. Through the City’s commitment towards expansion of mobile vaccine clinics, our continued focus on IPAC measures and our ongoing outreach work with those experiencing homelessness in encampments, we want people experiencing homelessness to feel comfortable accepting offers of safe inside space, with supports and referrals to permanent housing. From April 2020 to April 2021, 5,518 people experiencing homelessness moved from the shelter system into permanent housing.
Since July 2020, City and partner agency staff have engaged more than 19,000 times with people living outside, including those staying in encampments – listening to and understanding their needs on a daily basis with care and compassion, and offering them safe inside space with supports including meals, laundry, showers, mental health and addiction supports, interim housing, and referrals to permanent housing.
The City has referred almost 1,600 people staying in encampments to safe inside space since April 2020. In the last four weeks, the City referred 157 people inside from all encampment sites into safe, indoor space.
Living outside has a significant, negative impact on overall health and well-being. Individuals living in encampments are also at risk of contracting COVID-19. There have been 92 fires in encampments so far this year, including a fire last night at Moss Park in an empty tent. In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – it is a 250 per cent increase over the same period in 2019.
Illegal encampments are not an indefinite solution to unsheltered homelessness and the health outcomes for people who stay outside are complex and serious. The City will enforce bylaws at encampments after exhausting all tools and options available to help move people in encampments to safer, indoor spaces.
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