Today, the City announced it will be gradually increasing space available at the COVID-19 Isolation and Recovery Site for people experiencing homelessness with complex health needs who test positive for the virus. Working with program partners, the current 60-room capacity will be expanded – on a progressive ramp up as additional staffing resources and health supports are available – by up to an additional 60 rooms.
Given the increasing number of cases and current information suggesting that Omicron may cause less severe COVID-19 symptoms for most people, the Isolation and Recovery Site’s eligibility criteria have been recently revised to prioritize available space for those with complex clinical, physical or harm reduction needs, including seniors, who test positive from congregate shelter settings. Individuals living outdoors, including in encampments, will also be prioritized. This move to increase spaces at this site also aligns with a recent motion by the Board of Health to expand the capacity of recovery shelter beds.
The City will be adding spaces by gradually moving individuals who are currently using emergency shelter space at the site to other shelter locations. The City anticipates that people will be moved beginning by the end of this week and will continue into next week. During the summer months, the Isolation and Recovery Site transitioned to include designated floors for emergency shelter space for people experiencing homelessness due to a reduced demand for COVID-19 isolation and recovery space at the time.
Throughout the pandemic, the City has prioritized the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness in shelters and outdoor settings and continues to do so in response to the Omicron variant.
The City continues to operate the Isolation and Recovery Site to support people who test positive for COVD-19 and require additional support during their isolation period, and referrals for new admissions are ongoing. Spaces become available at the site daily as people recover and are discharged. The program is run in partnership with Inner City Health Associates, University Health Network, Parkdale Queen West and The Neighbourhood Group, and offers an integrated model of health and social care services that include intensive clinical, harm reduction and peer and personal support. The program is pet- and family-friendly, and children can remain with their parents on-site.
Anyone requiring urgent medical care will be referred to a hospital.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto Public Health has provided detailed guidance to the homelessness sector on the creation of effective isolation plans within congregate shelter settings to ensure shelter residents needing support have a place to safely isolate. Given the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant, health and public health experts have indicated that it is no longer possible or advisable to try to move all clients who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Current public health advice recommends that all shelter locations develop on-site (also known as in-situ) isolation plans to safely isolate people impacted by COVID-19, in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidelines for isolation and outbreaks in congregate living settings.
As outbreaks are identified, they are discussed closely with staff, service providers and Toronto Public Health to determine the best course of action and to develop an outbreak management plan for the site. Sites experiencing an outbreak will also have access to mobile support teams and virtual health assessments to support their in-situ isolation plans.
The City continues to take a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the shelter system and people experiencing homelessness. Since the start of the pandemic, the City of Toronto has implemented a comprehensive response to COVID-19 for people experiencing homelessness – from employing physical distancing, to rigorous infection, prevention and control measures, providing access to masks for clients and staff, and activating ongoing vaccination clinics. The City continues to evolve its approach to respond to current conditions, to protect and prioritize people experiencing homelessness.
Visit the City’s website for more information about Toronto’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the shelter system.
More information about the prioritization criteria for the COVID-19 Isolation and Recovery Site is also available online.
“The City of Toronto will continue to prioritize the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness during this pandemic and especially during this wave. Increasing space at the COVID-19 Isolation and Recovery Site for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive will allow more of our vulnerable fellow citizens with complex clinical, physical or harm reduction needs, including seniors, to safely isolate, access critical health and social care services and supports, and recover.
– Mayor John Tory
“The City continues to remain vigilant about protecting people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron surge. We have continued to evolve our response at every step of the pandemic to ensure the protection of people experiencing homelessness and the stability of the shelter system. We are grateful to City partners such as Inner City Health Associates, University Health Network, Parkdale Queen West and the Neighbourhood Group, who help us run the vital COVID-19 Recovery and Isolation program.”
– Gord Tanner, General Manager (Acting), Shelter, Support and 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.