News Release
October 14, 2021

The City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division (SSHA) today released the results of Toronto’s fifth Street Needs Assessment (SNA) and the proposed Homelessness Solutions Service Plan. Responding to the SNA’s key findings, the Service Plan identifies six implementation priorities that support the City’s ongoing efforts to build and strengthen a responsive homelessness service system and advance our shared goal of ending chronic homelessness in Toronto.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has worked to continue to provide unprecedented support for people experiencing homelessness. These efforts include providing safe, indoor shelter with stringent COVID-19 protocols and ongoing vaccination efforts. The City has also moved more than 6,635 people experiencing homelessness from the shelter system into permanent housing since April 2020. The City – with the help of the federal and provincial governments – is investing $663.2 million this year to continue to support homelessness and housing first solutions.

The SNA is a federally funded point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto. As part of the national and provincial coordinated count, the SNA provides important data that informs how the City supports people experiencing homelessness.

Key findings from the 2021 Street Needs Assessment are:

  • The profile of those experiencing homelessness changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall decrease in homelessness since 2018 is primarily due to fewer refugee families as a result of COVID-19 border restrictions.
  • People experience homelessness (an estimated 7,347) in all areas of Toronto pointing to a need for services and supports available across the city.
  • Most people experiencing homelessness are Toronto residents (90 per cent have lived in the city for more than one year).
  • Specific groups are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness in Toronto, particularly:
    • Indigenous people
    • Racialized individuals, particularly those who identify as Black
    • People who first experienced homelessness as a child or youth
    • People who have had foster care experience
    • People who identify as 2SLGBTQ+
  • Gaps in other service systems are key contributors to homelessness, particularly health, including mental health, and access to harm reduction supports and substance use treatment.
    • The findings, in particular, show a gap in access to substance use treatment. One-third of respondents who were not currently in treatment for a substance use issue expressed interest in accessing treatment, which is administered by the Province of Ontario.
  • People continue to identify that the most important supports to help find housing are those that increase housing affordability and income – emphasizing the importance of permanent housing solutions to homelessness.

The full results of the 2021 Toronto Street Needs Assessment can be found on the City’s website.

Previous SNA results have helped to improve program and service delivery, such as the creation of an Indigenous funding stream with a 20 per cent allocation of funding, new shelter development, and priority populations for housing benefit programs. The results help inform service planning and ongoing service system transformation efforts as they provide a valuable source of feedback on the services that help people experiencing homelessness find and maintain housing.

The data from Toronto’s 2021 SNA, as well as input gathered through extensive engagement with frontline staff, sector partners and people with lived experience of homelessness, informed the creation of the Homelessness Solutions Service Plan.

The Service Plan, which is focused on a housing-oriented approach to homelessness, identifies the following six implementation priorities, subject to Council approval, that will guide the City and its partners over the next three years:

  • Advancing reconciliation
  • Focusing on equity
  • Delivering high quality services
  • Reducing chronic homelessness
  • Developing an integrated systems response
  • Strengthening and modernizing the sector

A key action identified as part of the Service Plan is development of an operational plan to transition out of COVID-19 hotel response sites. The timing of this transition will be based on any future changes to public health guidance, ongoing assessment of shelter demand, and availability of supportive housing opportunities.

The City plans to continue current response efforts, which includes services at temporary shelter sites to support physical distancing measures until at least April 2022. Most hotel providers have indicated a willingness to extend leases, which will mitigate the need for transition during the winter. Over the next 12 months, the City will work to develop a COVID-19 Transition and Relocation Plan that considers specific site needs and focuses on working with service partners to help move people into permanent housing.

Similar to previous years, SSHA will also deliver enhanced services to protect people from colder weather over the coming months. The City’s winter plan will be shared in the coming weeks, including details of specific locations.

Components of the response for 2021/22 winter season include:

  • Continuing to maintain the 2020/2021 winter season capacity that is still operating
  • Additional winter shelter capacity from November to April to assist people to move indoors from encampments and other outdoor locations
  • Prioritizing people to move from shelters and encampments to new supportive housing units on an expedited basis
  • Activating warming centre locations to operate during Extreme Cold Weather Alerts to provide additional space for people to come indoors and keep warm
  • Providing additional 24/7 mobile street outreach services for Extreme Cold Weather Alerts to connect with people living outside encouraging them to come indoors.


“Through the 2021 Street Needs Assessment, the City heard directly from thousands of people experiencing homelessness and gathered critical data needed to understand the impact of the pandemic on homelessness and the broader needs and barriers to services of people experiencing homelessness. The findings were crucial in developing the Homelessness Solutions Service Plan, which will guide the City’s and our partners’ efforts to address homelessness over the next three years. I want to thank all City staff and homelessness sector partners for their participation and support of the Street Needs Assessment and the new Service Plan, as we all continue to work for our most vulnerable fellow residents. I would also like to thank the federal government again for providing Toronto with Reaching Home funding to implement this important initiative.”

– Mayor John Tory

“The data provided by our latest Street Needs Assessment is essential for a fuller understanding of the scope and complexity of homelessness in Toronto and how to address it more effectively. Our Homelessness Solutions Service Plan reinforces Toronto’s leadership in delivering innovative, tailored, housing-first-focused services that meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. It supports our renewed focus on strengthening the homelessness service system as it delivers effective emergency services to help people move into permanent housing as quickly as possible.”

– Deputy Mayor and Councillor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Economic and Community Development Committee

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.

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