November 7, 2022

The City of Toronto provides temporary shelter and housing help services for people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness. Toronto’s emergency shelter system is delivered through a network of City-owned and leased facilities in collaboration with community-based partner agencies.

Facts and figures

In the last two years, the City’s shelter system has served:

  • 19,500 unique people in 2020
  • 18,500 unique people in 2021

In the last two years, the City housed:

  • 6,094 people into permanent housing from shelters in 2020
  • 3,409 people into permanent housing from shelters in 2021

In 2022, the City is spending $647 million to provide emergency shelter and wrap-around supports for people experiencing homelessness.

The City’s 2022/23 Winter Services Plan outlines measures to ensure warm and welcoming places are available for those experiencing homelessness during the upcoming winter months.

It’s estimated that the City will provide emergency shelter and new housing units for over more than 9,000 people in need this winter season.

Current shelter system

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.

The current shelter system comprises:

  • 11 emergency shelter locations, City-run
  • 57 emergency shelter locations, agency-operated
  • seven 24-hr respite sites, agency-operated
  • two 24-hr women’s drop-in centres
  • 24 COVID-19 response sites

The system is run by the City and more than 30 partner agencies.

Data on the daily occupancy and capacity of Toronto’s shelter system can be found on the Daily Shelter and Overnight Service Usage page.

City’s 2022/2023 Winter Services Plan

  • The City’s 2022/23 Winter Services Plan outlines 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 affordable homes with supports.
  • This year’s Winter Plan will add approximately 230 additional spaces into the shelter system:
    • 132 spaces for singles through expanding capacity at existing shelter sites
    • 100 hotel rooms for refugee singles and families, which will help free up space in the base shelter system by allowing refugee claimants currently in non-refugee specific shelters to move to this program
  • The City will also activate 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 Warming Centres 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, 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 people 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 beds.
  • 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 anticipates that more than 400 new affordable homes 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.
  • 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.
  • More information about the City’s Winter Services Plan is available on the City’s website.

Service types and definitions

Emergency shelters
Provide temporary accommodation and related support services that assist people to move into housing. Emergency shelters can be accessed by any individual or family experiencing homelessness with or without a referral.

Transitional shelters
A homeless shelter program that provides required, specialized programming and can be accessed by eligible individuals and families experiencing homelessness, by referral only.

Hotel/motel shelter program
Provides shelter beds through contracts with hotel/motel operators, which enables the City to expand and contract emergency shelter capacity in response to demand for services.

Allied shelter services
Emergency overnight spaces that offer a safe, warm indoor space and connections to other supports to meet the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness. Provided to respond to increased demand for homeless shelters and/or to prioritize ease of access for those who are vulnerable and may otherwise not access shelters. ‘Allied shelter services’ is also a broad term used to describe a range of services that includes but is not limited to: 24-hour respite sites, 24-hour women’s drop-ins, and Warming Centres, two of which are also defined in this document.

24-hour respite sites
Provides essential services to individuals experiencing homelessness in an environment that prioritizes ease of access to safe indoor space. Services provided include resting spaces, meals and service referrals. An allied shelter service that operates on a 24/7 basis.

Drop-in services
Provide daytime locations that offer access to a range of services which may include food, showers, laundry facilities, health services, information and referrals, and social and recreational activities. Services are provided in a welcoming, safe and non-stigmatizing environment. Operate year-round.

Warming Centres
Provides immediate safe indoor space for those who are vulnerable and may be experiencing homelessness during extreme cold weather alerts. Facilities vary, but often include City of Toronto buildings or community recreation centres. Services vary, depending on the facility, but include at a minimum a safe indoor and warm resting space, snacks, washroom facilities and referrals to emergency shelter. An allied shelter service that operates on a 24/7 basis for the duration of an extreme cold weather alert.

Street outreach services and the Streets to Homes (S2H) Program
Services targeted to engage people experiencing homelessness who are sleeping outdoors, with a focus on establishing supportive relationships as a first step to addressing their immediate health and safety needs as well as providing supports to move into housing and follow-up supports. Operate year-round throughout the city as part of the Streets to Homes Program.

Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre (SHARC)
Individuals experiencing homelessness can access 129 Peter St. 24/7 to access services such as laundry, showers, washrooms, harm reduction supplies, snacks and access to a telephone. Those looking for shelter should call Central intake at 416 338-4766.

Central Intake
Provides a 24/7 telephone-based service that offers referrals to emergency shelter programs and other overnight accommodation, as well as information about other housing stability services.

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