Today, the City of Toronto released its 2022/23 Winter Services Plan, outlining how it will serve those experiencing homelessness during the coming winter months. All actions being taken by the City to prepare for winter will create more than 1,000 spaces through expanded capacity in shelters, additional room in the refugee-specific system, and new permanent affordable rental housing with supports. It’s estimated that the City will provide emergency shelter and new housing units for more than 9,000 people in need this winter season.
This year’s Winter Plan will add approximately 230 additional spaces into the shelter system.
The City will also activate approximately 60 spaces at Warming Centres during periods of extreme cold weather.
Warming Centres give those who are vulnerable and may be experiencing homelessness a safe indoor and warm place to rest and access snacks, washroom facilities and referrals to emergency shelter where they can access housing workers and other wraparound supports. At present, two sites are confirmed – Metro Hall and the Scarborough Civic Centre.
The City continues to work with landlords and partners in the real estate sector to secure additional sites to serve as Warming Centres during extreme cold weather. Information will be shared publicly as new sites are confirmed.
During extreme cold, the City’s Streets to Homes program will also dispatch additional 24/7 street outreach teams to do wellness checks with those living outdoors and encourage them to seek indoor shelter. Throughout the winter, staff also hand out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing.
There are undeniable pressures on the shelter system, and we expect demand to continue to rise during the winter months. So, in addition to the spaces being created through the Winter Services Plan – and as directed by Council in April 2022 – the City is introducing safe and moderate increases to capacity in the shelter system to help ensure as many as possible can access the services they need this winter. Where increased capacity is needed, changes in bed separation will be adjusted from 2 metres laterally, to 1.25 metres. This work will be implemented through a phased approach, following rigorous infection prevention and control measures, and is estimated to increase capacity by an additional 500 spaces.
The Winter Services Plan is designed to be adaptive and can evolve to respond to changing needs, as required throughout the winter. City staff will continue to explore opportunities to secure additional sites across the city to maximize spaces available for those in need.
The City also continues to operate temporary emergency shelter sites at 25 hotel locations across the city.
The emergency shelter system plays an important role in supporting the health and wellness of those experiencing homelessness, but its intended purpose is to provide short-term accommodation for people. Securing permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness remains the City’s ultimate goal.
All shelters in Toronto work from a Housing First model, with a priority to assist clients to secure permanent housing and provide support to help with the transition.
By the end of 2022, the Council-approved 24-Month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Response Plan will have made nearly 3,000 new supportive and affordable housing opportunities available for residents in need. The City anticipates that more than 400 new permanent affordable rental housing units with supports will be available for occupancy throughout the upcoming winter season. These homes will be prioritized for people experiencing homelessness who are staying in emergency shelters or living outdoors.
Toronto’s shelter system is currently accommodating approximately 8,200 people nightly – more people than it ever has, and 1,600 more people a night than this time last year. Despite continually adding new beds, the shelter system is at capacity most nights. In 2022, the City will spend $647 million to provide emergency shelter and wrap-around supports for people experiencing homelessness.
The City is committed to making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring; but it can’t do it alone.
We continue to work closely with both the provincial and federal governments to secure additional needed investment to help build supportive and affordable housing, ensure that there is safe indoor shelter space, and access to critical supports that help prevent people from becoming homeless.
Today, the City hosted a media briefing to share details of the 2022/23 Winter Services Plan. Remarks delivered by Gord Tanner, General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration are posted on the City’s website.
More information about the City’s 2022/23 Winter Services Plan is available in a backgrounder on the City’s Media Room webpage.
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