Fact Sheet
February 25, 2021

What is the City doing to permanently house people?

  • In 2020 through to the end of this January, the City has successfully housed more than 3,220 people who were homeless in shelters into permanent housing with a combination of housing allowances and rent-geared-to-income units.
  • The City’s Streets to Homes team and our partner agencies secured permanent housing for 473 people living in encampments in 2020.
  • More than 1,300 people have also accepted safe, indoor space since the start of the pandemic in April of 2020.
  • In the past 10 years, the City has helped 6,000 individuals who were sleeping outside secure permanent housing
  • 80% of those people remained housed after one year.
  • The City is also taking urgent action on creating and opening affordable homes with support services for people exiting homelessness.
  • Since mid-December the City has opened 220 affordable, supportive homes specifically geared to people experiencing homelessness
  • In 2021, the City is aiming to make a total of 1,248 new affordable housing opportunities ready for occupancy, including 798 net new affordable rental homes under the Action Plan.

 Is the City suing the carpenter of the wooden structures?

  • No, the City of Toronto is not suing Mr. Khaleel Seivwright.
  • The City has applied for a court injunction to stop him from placing or relocating wooden structures on City property, including in parks and on City rights-of-way.
  • This is the injunction application.
  • It was filed by the City with the Superior Court of Justice on February 12, 2021.
  • A hearing date has not been set.

Why does the City not approve of the placement of wooden structures in City parks?  

  • The City’s operating divisions have serious safety concerns with these structures, including fire.
  • It was determined necessary to ask the courts to order that the illegal placement and/or relocation of these structures on City property be halted due to serious safety concerns.
  • These wooden structures are not legal dwellings and the City’s Parks Bylaw and Streets Use Bylaw prohibits camping and placing tents or structures on City property.
  • The enforcement of the Parks Bylaw was upheld by a court decision last fall when the Ontario Superior Court of Justice acknowledged that the “City has taken many steps in its shelter system to respond to COVID-19.”

What are the City’s safety concerns?

  • There are numerous safety risks that exist in encampments including fires, gasoline generators, propane tanks, overdose, and lack of access to water and sanitation.
  • On February 17 one person died in an encampment fire that involved a wooden structure.
  • There have been at least two other fires involving wooden structures: one in December at Moss Park and one in January at Holy Trinity Church.
  • In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – that is a 250% increase over the same period in 2019.
  • To date in 2021, there have been 27 fires in encampments.
  • Fires in encampments pose not only a danger to those living in encampments, but also to first responders and the broader community.

What are the safety concerns of Toronto Fire Services?

  • The wooden structures do not meet the definition of a structure or dwelling under the provisions of the Ontario Building Code or Ontario Fire Code.
  • The Fire Code has no jurisdiction over these structures.
  • Early detection of smoke, fire and/or carbon monoxide in an outdoor environment is highly unreliable due to temperature and humidity fluctuations.
  • Given that these structures are made of combustible material, are confining, and difficult to escape from, they are unsuitable for human habitation.
  • The quantity of combustibles frequently noted and observed  inside these structures, combined with activities associated with the use of open flames,  increases the probability and consequence of fire.

Is the City removing wooden structures from parks? 

  • Currently, wooden structures are only removed if one is abandoned or someone living in one accepts services and comes inside
  • The City is not clearing people out of a wooden structure as a result of the injunction application
  • If a clear and present danger to an occupant of a wooden structure or those in an encampment is identified by City staff, a wooden structure – or any structure – may be dismantled

What is the City doing to offer people safe alternatives to sleeping outside?

  • Streets to Homes teams and City-funded partner agencies engage daily with those sleeping outside to encourage them to either come into a shelter, hotel program or consider the various housing options that are available.
  • People sleeping outside who accept inside space are given the opportunity to pack up their belongings.
  • City staff and partner agencies transport people with their belongings to safer inside spaces.
  • Since last April to February 24 this year, 1,337 people have taken the City up on its offer of safer indoor space including shelters, hotel programs and housing.
  • The City’s Streets to Homes team and our partner agencies secured permanent housing for 473 people living in encampments in 2020.
  • An isolation and recovery program was established last year in response to COVID-19 for people experiencing homeless to safely await a COVID-19 test result or to recover in isolation if they test positive.
  • A key determent of health is housing and the City remains committed and steadfast in helping anyone who wants to come inside, including obtaining permanent housing.

What is the City doing to make shelters safer during the pandemic?

  • encouraging physical distancing in all areas of the shelter, including washrooms, dining and common areas
  • ensuring physical distancing of at least two metres laterally between beds
  • ensure the mandatory use of masks for staff throughout shifts and directive for mandatory masks or face coverings for clients in all common areas
  • symptom screening at all points of entry into the shelter system and active daily screening and monitoring of all clients and staff for COVID-19 symptoms
  • transporting clients with symptoms to provincial assessment sites for testing
  • when directed by TPH, SSHA works in partnership with testing partners and Ontario Health to do site-wide testing at shelter sites
  • increased infection control and prevention (IPAC) activities including enhanced cleaning protocols at all shelter sites
  • conducting ongoing quality assurance site visits to all locations to confirm compliance with IPAC measures and provide direction for remediation where required
  • established a recovery and isolation site for anyone experiencing homelessness who tests positive for COVID-19 to be able to safely recover while protecting others from the virus. This was the first site of its kind to open in Canada
  • In response to the COVID-19 variants of concern and updated public health guidance, the following measures have also been recently implemented to enhance the protection of people experiencing homelessness:
    • Enhanced PPE protocols – updated directive on eye protection for shelter staff and three-layer masks for clients
    • Limiting movement between shelters
    • Exploring implementation of rapid testing pilots
    • Guidance for improvements to indoor air quality
    • Continued vaccination roll-out planning

How many spaces are there in the shelter system?

  • More than 6,000 people stay in City shelters on any given night.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, at least 40 new shelter locations, including in hotels, were opened to ensure physical distancing and of these at least 25 sites are currently open.
  • This is in addition to the 75 base shelters run by the City and by City-funded agencies.
  • Overall occupancy in the shelter system has decreased since the start of the pandemic, driven by a decline in the number of refugee claimants
  • Close to 20,000 unique individuals used the shelter system in 2020. In 2019, it was just over 25,000.

What is the City doing during winter to offer spaces for people staying outside to stay warm?

  • This is the fifth consecutive winter that the City has increased the overall capacity of the shelter and 24-hour respite system.
  • The Winter Services Plan provides approximately 680 additional spaces through a combination of shelter beds, hotel programs and housing units with supports.
  • Additional space is activated at Warming Centres during Extreme Cold Weather Alerts (ECWA).
  • The City’s Streets to Homes staff hand out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing throughout the winter.
  • New this year, the City has also activated Warming Centres and additional street outreach teams several times independent of ECWAs, out of an abundance of caution during colder nighttime temperatures and forecasted windchill values.

What is the City doing to assist those with addictions to get supports if they accept space inside the shelter system?

  • The City has partnered with Toronto Public Health and community agencies to launch iPHARE, which stands for Integrated Prevention and Harm Reduction initiative. iPHARE
  • It has three key components:
    • $2.76 million for Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre to provide a range of harm reduction supports to shelter programs across Toronto
    • $1.47 million to fund LOFT Community Services and Toronto North Support Services for enhanced intensive mental health case management supports
    • $3.38 million to expand the range of harm reduction services and embed Urgent Public Health Needs Sites into selected shelters across the city, allowing residents at the location to consume drugs under trained supervision to reduce the risk of overdose fatalities. These sites are not open to the public.