• Councillor Mark Grimes

Update on winter services for people experiencing homelessness

Extending cold weather drop-in services to April 15

The City's two 24-hour cold weather drop-in services have been available on a continuous basis for most of the winter. February 28 was the original date by which these were to have reverted to availability only during an Extreme Cold Weather Alert. In January, we extended continuous service to March 15. Given the cold weather we are experiencing, and out of an abundance of caution, we have extended continuous 24/7 cold weather drop-in service until April 15, the end of the cold weather alert season.

Margaret's Toronto East Drop-in Centre (323 Dundas St. East) remains open 24/7 until April 15 The overnight program at St. Lawrence CC is available by referral from March 18 through to April 15 Services at St. Felix Centre (25 Augusta Ave) are open 24/7 until March 18. After that the site returns to its regular day-time drop-in programming--unless there is an Extreme Cold Weather Alert in effect, in which case it becomes a 24/7 service starting by 3 pm on the day an alert is called and ending by noon on the day the alert is terminated.

As a reminder, there are two 24-hour services for women year round, and the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre is open 24/7 for anyone looking for street respite or a shelter referral. An additional 85 sleeping spaces continue to be available Friday, Saturday and Sundays. As well, cold weather beds are available and are put on line as needed.

While not part of the permanent shelter system, most of the Out of the Cold programs also remain open until late March and six operate into April.

SSHA is conducting a thorough review of the cold weather drop-in programs and other winter services in preparation for planning for winter 2017-2018. Early indications are good that the deployment of Streets to Homes outreach staff to work with clients in the cold weather drop-ins is effective. Over this past winter, staff connected with 55 clients and worked with 18 to complete housing plans. To date, four of those clients have found permanent new homes and have the ongoing supports that will help them to maintain their tenancies. Our staff continues to work with these clients.

City and community staff are housing long-term shelter stayers

A coordinated effort to house those staying for long periods in the City's emergency shelter system is paying off. Since the beginning of January, an estimated 275 people experiencing homelessness and staying in shelter or sleeping rough have moved into homes of their own through the combined efforts of workers in City and community operated shelters and outreach workers.

City response to tighter shelter occupancy Despite the steady move of people out of shelters and into homes of their own, demand for emergency shelter spaces continues to be high. The nightly average use in February was close to 10% higher than a year previously.

The number of clients citing refugee status as the reason for needing service has grown to almost 20% of all shelter service users. This group is the main reason for continued increase in system pressure.

The City's response to rising demand for shelter is to make more beds available and to put in place housing allowances and follow up services that can assist housing workers within the shelter system to help service users leave the shelter and find permanent homes of their own. Since just before Christmas, almost 400 beds have been added to the system:

·       174 additional motel beds have been offered since mid-December, providing relief mainly in the family sector.

·       Shelter demand from families continues to be high, in part because of a significant increase in intakes from families seeking refugee status. We are seeing continued growth in this demand across all sectors but it remains highest among families. We continue to think that providing refugees with motel rooms and support services is the best way to provide services, and we are working to identify more motel beds that could be used as needed.

A 60-bed women's program opened in Scarborough before Christmas and operates at near capacity.  The new 30-bed men's program on Bloor Street West opened January 11 and has been full most nights since January 13.  Red Door's 96-bed temporary program for families is mostly open now. Red Door will return to its permanent home on Queen Street East once construction is complete on its new facility.  Sojourn House is operating a 36-bed winter program for single male refugees