To help respond to demand for emergency shelter space that is increasing due to the cold weather and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto is opening two community centres, which will operate as 24-hour respite sites.
Beginning today at 4 p.m., spaces will be available at the following locations:
These two sites will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week providing up to an additional 89 physically distanced spaces to give those who are vulnerable and may be experiencing homelessness a safe and welcoming place for meals, rest and help connecting to important wrap-around supports such as mental and physical health care.
Clients in need of emergency shelter will be referred to these spaces from Central Intake. Central Intake can be reached at 416-397-5637.
Space at the community centres was made available after regulations implemented by the Province on January 5, resulted in the cancellation of indoor sports and recreational programs. Although temporary, spaces at these locations will continue to operate until further notice. The need for the sites will be reviewed on an ongoing basis with the City’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).
Services at these sites will follow ongoing public health recommendations regarding COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of those using the centres. These measures include physical distancing, the mandatory use of masks, hand washing, conducting symptom screening and monitoring, and enhanced cleaning procedures.
With the current Extreme Cold Weather Alert in place, issued earlier today by the Medical Officer of Health, the City’s four Warming Centres are also open. Warming Centres are located at:
A fourth Warming Centre will be activated at 1684 Queen Street East. It temporarily replaces the Warming Centre typically located at the Scarborough Civic Centre, which is currently unavailable for this use due to construction.
Toronto has the largest shelter system in Canada, currently providing space for more than 7,200 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’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) is continually working with partners to explore options to add additional space for those in need, while also balancing the availability of staff and other required supports to ensure the safe and effective operation of sites. The City will redeploy staff when needed, to ensure essential and critical City services are maintained.
The City’s commitment to ensuring the safety of people experiencing homelessness remains unwavering. This includes continuing to maintain and expand shelter spaces for people to move indoors, as well as stringent infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures that have been applied in the shelter system throughout the pandemic, and will continue to be applied at all sites, including any site opened temporarily to create contingency capacity.
Throughout the pandemic, the City has prioritized the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness in shelters and outdoor settings and will continue to do so, especially now, in light of the Omicron variant.
From employing physical distancing, to rigorous IPAC measures, providing access to masks for clients and staff, and activating ongoing vaccination clinics, the City continues to take a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the shelter system and people experiencing homelessness.
The best defense to maintaining a safe environment within shelters and the broader community is ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated. Toronto Public Health mobile vaccine clinics are held at shelters, 24-hour respite sites and 24-hour women’s drop-ins seven days a week. The City also continues to work with Inner City Health Associates to hold vaccination clinics onsite. For the month of January, there are 154 COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled to help ensure people experiencing homelessness get vaccinated. As of January 14, 75 per cent of those aged 12 and older currently staying in the shelter system have received their first dose, 65 per cent have received their second dose, and 16 per cent have received their third dose. Thirty-two per cent of those aged five to 11 have received their first dose.
Learn more about the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the shelter system.
“Thank you to our City staff for working collaboratively across divisions to open both Warden Hilltop Community Centre and Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre to those in need of emergency shelter and to all those working to provide safe, indoor shelter across our city every night. I thank Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Shelter and Support and Housing Administration staff for working so quickly to get these spaces at these centres online and available to those in need during the extreme cold weather and the Omicron surge.”
– Mayor John Tory
“The City’s community centres serve the needs of all of Toronto’s diverse communities and act as the focal points of our neighbourhoods. Opening Warden Hilltop Community Centre and Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre to those in need demonstrates how vital these hubs can be. Thanks to all City staff who worked hard to prepare these centres for such a vital use.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair, Economic and Community Development Committee
“The City continues to work tirelessly to respond to the demand for emergency shelter space and ensure the continuing stability of the emergency shelter system. We are continually working with partners to explore options to add space across the city. Activating both Warden Hilltop Community Centre and Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre means that additional safe, warm indoor space is available for those who need it.”
– Gord Tanner, General Manager (acting), Shelter, Support and Housing Administration
“The City’s community centres exist to serve the many diverse communities of Toronto. Right now there is a great need to activate Warden Hilltop and Masaryk-Cowan community centres as emergency shelters. I thank all Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff who worked so quickly with colleagues in Shelter, Support and Housing Administration to make this space available.”
– Janie Romoff, General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation
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.