News Release
April 6, 2022

Today, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to continue to provide safe, indoor space to people experiencing homelessness.

Council approved a staff report recommending a phased 24-month workplan for the COVID-19 temporary shelter sites, as the City of Toronto aims to transform the shelter system by building on the housing-focused service model and advance the goal of ensuring homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring. This includes the extension of most temporary shelter sites.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic required the City to move quickly to expand physical distancing in the shelter system. As a result, over the past two years the shelter system has undergone significant transformation, specifically, through the use of temporary emergency shelter sites to meet guidelines for physical distancing in congregate living settings and provide safe indoor space for people living outdoors.

Currently, there are 27 temporary emergency shelter locations still operating, which account for approximately 40 per cent of the total spaces in the City’s shelter system. Over the past two years, more than 15,000 individuals have been sheltered at these 27 locations.

A sudden reversal of program delivery at temporary sites was not recommended as it would cause significant disruption to the vital services provided at these sites and to those who rely on them. As well, although many pandemic measure in the broader community are lifting, public health guidelines in high-risk congregate settings – like emergency shelters – have not changed and physical distancing remains in effect. A more cautious approach in emergency shelter settings is needed to ensure continued vigilance against any future resurgence of COVID-19.

The recommendations in the COVID-19 Shelter Transition and Relocation Update Plan, approved by Council today, outline steps for the shelter system over the next 24 months, learning from the pandemic to shape a stronger and more effective shelter system going forward.

This Council-approved approach includes six core components of work – some of which are already underway – and form the basis of Phase 1 of the transition work plan in 2022.

  1. Engagement process and learning from other cities
  2. Extending temporary shelter locations and services to support these programs
  3. Decommissioning up to five sites in 2022, with a focus on housing and offsetting shelter capacity
  4. Restoring temporary sites as they are decommissioned
  5. Creation of a dedicated refugee shelter sector to free up existing shelter capacity
  6. Develop decommissioning plan for more sites in 2023, based on learning from the first phase and monitoring of key indicators

Council also approved recommendations for new services to help refugee claimants seeking temporary accommodation, through new programs that will provide temporary accommodation and related supports for approximately 750 refugee claimants. Notably, as part of the transition plan proposed in the report, a specific refugee shelter sector will be established that will operate in parallel to the existing base shelter system. Refugee-serving programs are distinct in many ways from services provided in the rest of the shelter system – they offer specialized services and serve a population with distinct needs.

Through the approval of this report, Council has reiterated requests to both the federal and provincial governments to establish and implement an immediate federal and provincial intergovernmental strategy for large scale arrivals of refugee claimants to ensure appropriate supports are in place across Ontario, including reception programs and facilities outside of Toronto (especially near ports of entry), coordination to refer new arrivals across the province, and providing direct funding to refugee houses and refugee specific shelter providers in strategic locations across Ontario, including Toronto.

The report does not recommend a full return to the pre-COVID situation in the shelter system. A vision for the future of the shelter system, based on learning from the experience of the pandemic and building on the Shelter Design and Technical Guidelines and the housing-focused service model set out in the Homelessness Solutions Service Plan will guide this transition, and capitalize on the opportunity to shape a housing- and equity- focused recovery. The City has also launched an engagement process with temporary site operators, service providers, and people staying at temporary sites, to inform the development of the transition and relocation plan. This engagement process will be completed by June 2022 and the results will be shared publicly. Investments in new affordable and supportive homes through the 24-Month Housing and Homelessness Plan are a significant opportunity to provide better outcomes for people, and shift from emergency responses to more permanent solutions.

The staff report includes the closing of potentially as many as five temporary shelter sites in 2022. This will be determined based on several factors, including continued availability of sites through negotiations with property owners, as well as operational suitability, current state of good repair, cost, and geographic location. Two locations have already been identified where the existing arrangements will no longer be available – 195 Princes’ Blvd. and 1684 Queen St. E. These site will be decommissioned in spring 2022.

As sites are identified for decommissioning, staff will work to establish transition plans for each of the programs to be closed, in partnership with site operators, and will work to match clients with either permanent housing or space in the shelter system that meets their individual needs.

Success of the Shelter Transition and Relocation Plan is dependent on availability of additional affordable and supportive housing opportunities for people to move out of shelter more quickly. The City’s 10-year housing plan, HousingTO 2020-2030, includes actions across the full housing spectrum – from homelessness to rental and ownership housing to long-term care for seniors. The plan calls for the approval of 40,000 new affordable rental homes including 18,000 new supportive homes by 2030. Through the 24-month plan, the City is on track to exceed its targets and create over 3,300 new affordable housing opportunities. Since early 2021, with support of the Federal and Provincial governments, the City has created over 550 new supportive housing opportunities, with more than 300 additional supportive homes expected to begin occupancy in the coming year.

Staff will work to implement recommendations approved by Council and will report back in the first quarter of 2023 with an update on the first phase and next steps for phase 2 of the plan. This will include an update on key indicators to measure shelter demand and progress on housing outcomes.

The report is available on the City’s website:

Up-to-date information about the COVID-19 Shelter Transition and Relocation Plan is available at

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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