News Release
April 25, 2020

The City of Toronto is in possession of the notice of application with respect to its unprecedented, determined and expedited action to protect those experiencing homelessness in Toronto.

Toronto’s Shelter, Support & Housing Administration (SSHA) has worked tirelessly with Toronto Public Health, other City divisions, provincial and federal governments, and the community non-profit sector to rapidly tailor solutions for the city’s most vulnerable.

Toronto has the largest shelter system in Canada, with 75 shelter and respite sites for more than 7,000 people, including almost 3,000 people already sheltered in hotels and family settings. Of the 75 shelter sites located in Toronto, 11 are operated directly by the City. The remaining 64 programs are operated by community non-profit agencies.

As of Friday, the City has opened 11 new facilities and secured more than 1,200 hotel rooms. Some 770 people have been moved to hotel rooms and another 492 people to community space. The City has also provided $1.2 million to community partners serving the homeless community for personal protective equipment, and continues to work with the provincial and federal governments to provide adequate PPE.

The City is also working with Toronto Community Housing and other housing providers on a rapid housing initiative, which has enabled people to move out of shelters and into permanent housing. More than 250 units have been identified for this initiative. Seventy-three people have moved into new homes, and still others are being actively matched with housing.

At the outset of this COVID-19 pandemic, SSHA conducted an impact assessment to determine the greatest areas of risk so that the City could prioritize its actions. This was done in conjunction with Toronto Public Health.

A critical component of prevention work has been working closely with service providers to take steps to increase physical distancing measures on site, where possible, including reducing or eliminating the use of bunk beds. Shelters continue to meet the increased physical distancing guidelines of 2 metres.

To that end, the City has increased the number of shelter and respite sites to maximize physical distancing in all settings. Relocating people out of a familiar shelter setting, however, is complex. Respecting individual needs remains a key consideration before moving someone to a new space. The City also needs to ensure that any new location has undergone life safety inspections, and that the site has adequate amenities for residents. The City must also secure contracts for cleaning, catering, security and linen/laundry services.

To facilitate all of this, the City has redeployed hundreds of staff from other divisions to assist with this enormous effort, which is being done in concert with Toronto Public Health and Toronto Paramedic Services for the provision of on-site clinical support. Staff are being trained and working in the shelter system today, and that work continues.

The City proactively worked with the Province and the hospital sector to ensure discharge protocols are in place in hospitals and COVID-19 assessment centres so that homeless individuals are properly cared for and isolated, rather than discharged back into shelters while awaiting test results.

The City opened a 200-bed recovery facility for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19. This first-of-its-kind facility in Canada has been done in partnership with Inner City Health Associates and other community health providers. It is utilizing its fleet to safely transport individuals awaiting COVID-19 test results and those who test positive to isolation and recovery facilities. The City is actively working with the provincial government and healthcare partners to open a second recovery site. The City is also working with the Provincial government to ensure scaled up proactive COVID-19 testing is being conducted in the shelter system, an area of
Provincial responsibility.

Rightly so, the City’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in shelters is a matter of keen public interest. Implementing a comprehensive response as quickly as possible for Toronto’s most vulnerable has been a City priority. It works closely with Toronto Public Health to address immediate needs, but also to understand the trajectory of the virus so that it can plan and act accordingly.

The City of Toronto has declared an emergency for the first time in its history to respond to this pandemic and save lives. And nothing on this scale has ever been experienced by Toronto. The City will respond to this notice of application through appropriate court channels.

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 or follow us on Twitter at, on Instagram at or on Facebook at