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Toronto developing next phase of COVID-19 response for people experiencing homelessness
In this file photo, a worker from Sanctuary, a christian charitable organization, tends to homeless people in their tents during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO -- City officials said Monday that staff are working on the next phase of a response to the pandemic for Toronto’s homeless population, one that will move forward with a “new normal.”
The city said that it is working with United Way of Greater Toronto to develop a “COVID-19 Shelter Interim Recovery Strategy” that will guide policy for the next six to 12 months as more of the city reopens.
In a statement, Mayor John Tory said the new strategy “will help inform how we can continue to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population.
“It will guide the city on how to build on our innovative solutions so far, learn how we can best move forward in the next six to 12 months and ultimately help our most vulnerable residents over the long-term.”
A taskforce composed of multiple stakeholders will engage with various communities and partners through June to find out what lessons have been learned from the pandemic to date, as regards infection prevention, health care for homeless individuals, shelter system needs and services, and long-term solutions to end homelessness.
The feedback will be included in a public report that will be released in July and which will guide the city’s policies through spring 2021.
“The interim recovery strategy will begin to lay a new foundation for a recovery effort that can end chronic homelessness in Toronto by leveraging additional investments in supportive and affordable housing solutions,” the city said in a release.
Over the past three months, the city has taken a number of steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among those experiencing homelessness.
Those measures include moving almost 3,000 people to temporary respite sites, hotels, interim and permanent housing in order to achieve physical distancing; moving 166 people who were sleeping outdoors to their own apartments while working to find them permanent housing; and opening two recovery sites with medical supports for clients who are COVID-19 positive.
“We know that our housing, shelter and health sector partners remain vital to us moving forward together in the next year and beyond to support and care for the homeless population,” Shelter, Support and Housing Administration General Manager Mary-Anne Bédard said.