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Five more temporary Toronto shelters set to close in 2023 as part of city's transition plan

A homeless man sleeps in a bus shelter, in Toronto, on Friday, March 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young A homeless man sleeps in a bus shelter, in Toronto, on Friday, March 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Toronto will close down as many as five more shelters this year as part of its plan to continue transitioning away from temporary shelter sites.

The city currently operates 23 temporary shelter sites, including shelter hotels. Most of them were created at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to allow for physical distancing. The spaces at those shelters account for 3,000 spaces, or 30 per cent of the city’s total shelter space.

“With the wind-down of COVID-19 response funding for shelters from other orders of government, a thoughtful approach to gradually closing the sites is needed,” the city says in a staff report made public this week.

The report notes that a sudden closure of the temporary spaces would cause “significant disruption to the vital services delivered through the sites and the vulnerable Torontonians who rely upon them” and suggests extending the leases and licenses for most of them into 2024.

The success of the plan to transition away from the temporary sites, the report says, rests upon availability of additional “deeply affordable and supportive housing opportunities” for people using the system.

“The emergency shelter system plays an important role in supporting the health and wellbeing of those experiencing homelessness, but the solution to homelessness is permanent affordable housing with supports,” the report says.

While the report notes that all three levels of government have provided funding to create almost 3,600 new affordable and supportive housing opportunities for those experiencing homelessness, it says further investments are necessary in order to scale up those efforts to meet the need. It also calls for investments in homelessness prevention and poverty reduction measures.

The total cost of the proposed extensions and other existing hotel contracts is $317.2 million.


Despite an increase from 6,000 to more than 8,000 spaces in the spring of 2021, the shelter system is at full capacity most nights.

The report notes that there are 700-800 people each month who are new to homelessness, while the number of people transitioning out of homelessness through permanent housing is far below that number.

The number of daily callers who aren’t matched with a spot in the shelter system reached a peak of 187 in October, though the report notes that has dropped off to around 118 per day as of Dec. 18, likely because of extra capacity brought online through winter spaces.

As part of its plan, the city has already started adding capacity back to its base shelter system by reducing physical distancing and the report says it expects to gain an additional 500 beds by continuing to do so in the first few months of 2023.

In 2022, the city closed three temporary sites -- 195 Princes' Boulevard; 1684 Queen Street East; and 45 The Esplanade. Occupancy was reduced at a fourth site, 65 Dundas Street East, as the site is converted into deeply affordable and supportive housing. The lease for a fifth site at 30 Norfinch Avenue ended on Dec. 31, but the service provider entered into a direct agreement with the landlord and is continuing to provide space at a nearby location while renovations are underway.

The report also notes refugees make up a growing share of those using the shelter system – some 30 per cent – and recommends using federal and provincial funds to continue work to establish a dedicated regional refugee shelter system in the GTHA.

It also calls for appropriate health services to match shelter spaces.

“The City is committed to making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring – but it can’t do it alone. As the rate of those entering homelessness continues to increase, there remains a need for other orders of government to provide long-term funding for housing, refugee support and health services, including mental health and harm reduction supports, for people experiencing homelessness,” the city said in a release Wednesday.

“Investments in homelessness prevention and poverty reduction measures, such as increases to social assistance benefit rates and housing benefit allocations, are also needed to better respond to the actual cost of living in Toronto and prevent more households from falling into deep poverty and homelessness.”

Some 4,000 new affordable and supportive housing opportunities are planned for 2023 and 2024 with support from the federal and provincial governments in order to help more people transition out of homelessness.

Staff are expected to report back to the Economic and Community Development Committee in the first quarter of 2024 with an update on the plan’s implementation and next steps heading into 2024.

The report is set to go before the Economic and Community Development Committee on Jan. 11 and will be considered by council on Feb. 7. Top Stories

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