City of Toronto and partners open second COVID-19 recovery site for homeless

News Release

May 6, 2020

City of Toronto and partners open second COVID-19 recovery site for homeless

As part of the City of Toronto's comprehensive three tier response to COVID-19 for people experiencing homelessness, a second recovery program will open this week and enhanced PPE measures will be in place across the shelter system.

A second COVID-19 recovery site will open on Friday for individuals experiencing homelessness who are COVID-19 positive through a unique partnership between the City of Toronto, University Health Network (UHN), Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) and community health partners. The new downtown site has a capacity for up to 250 individuals who test positive for COVID-19

The recovery program is unique and a new integrated model for shelter and health care.  It isn't a hospital because people do not require acute care. It also isn't a shelter because there are additional infection control measures in place similar to health care settings, as well as other wraparound health supports.

It is critical to our response that people who are homeless and who are ill with COVID-19 have a safe space to recover outside of the shelter system to prevent the spread of infection. For those who don't require hospitalization, the recovery program provides a place for the city’s most vulnerable to recover in a dignified way, without placing additional pressures on the hospital acute care system.

The program is a partnership between the City UHN and ICHA with community partner agencies including the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, the Neighbourhood Group, and Sound Times. Doctors Without Borders is also involved, providing expertise on project co-ordination and logistics and infection, prevention and control management. Funding for the program is being provided by the Province of Ontario.

Clients are accommodated in individual hotel rooms and are provided an integrated model of care using a harm reduction and trauma-oriented approach, offering medical care, nursing, substance use care and overdose prevention services, mental health support, and community, peer and personal support.

Individuals will be referred directly to the recovery program through a referral from an ICHA physician. Transportation to the site will be provided by the City’s fleet services. The site is pet-friendly and family-friendly. Once the individual has recovered, the team offers clients options including a referral to one of the hotel-based shelter program or directly to housing wherever possible.

The new site will operate in addition to an existing 200-bed COVID-19 recovery site for homeless individuals that opened in April.

In addition, the City has obtained a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for shelter workers. Starting this week, these additional supplies will be distributed to all City operated and community partner provider sites to support daily use of masks by all frontline shelter staff across the service system. While current public health guidelines don’t require the universal use of PPE, such as masks, in shelter locations where there is not an active outbreak, directly providing PPE supplies to all shelter locations will ensure there is enhanced and consistent approach to protect both staff and vulnerable clients across the shelter system.


“The City has taken action to open a second COVID-19 recovery site to help our homeless population. I want to thank our Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff and many redeployed City employees for working tirelessly to help people during this unprecedented time. We could not have done this without the partnership and expertise of Inner City Health Associates, University Health Network, Doctors Without Borders, and community partner organizations including Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, the Neighbourhood Group and Sound Times. Together, we are supporting this vulnerable group in a welcoming space to recover from COVID-19.”

- Mayor John Tory

“This recovery site is not a hospital, nor is it a shelter. Rather, it is a new housing and healthcare initiative to support Toronto’s homeless population. Jointly developed by the City, the Province, the hospital sector, and community partners, it is an essential component of Toronto’s COVID-19 response.”

- Councillor Joe Cressy, Board of Health Chair, Spadina-Fort York (Ward 10)

“The City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration division is opening its second recovery site in a month to help homeless who have tested positive for COVID-19 have a place to isolate and get better. Once they recover, we will relocate them to shelter, hotels or apartments that allow them to physical distance and continue to be supported with meals, harm reduction and care while we work to secure them permanent housing.”

- Mary-Anne Bédard, General Manager, Shelter Support and Housing Administration

"Homelessness and health are inextricably linked — even more so during a pandemic. UHN as a hospital partner continues to advocate for housing first — both to better protect individuals in this crisis and for lasting measures in recovery. We need all partnerships and solutions in place to better address the disproportionate burden of COVID19, and to ultimately reshape the social determinants of health."

-Dr. Andrew Boozary, University Health Network

“People experiencing homelessness face a disproportionately high risk of harm during this pandemic. This second recovery site will help mitigate that harm and save lives; it is a key part of ensuring that people experiencing homelessness receive the help and healthcare they so desperately need. We look forward to continuing this important work with our community partners to provide a full range of care in a safe setting. We thank the City for providing and supporting the site, the province for funding our nurse-led, physician-supported teams, and our health partners for their expertise and collaboration.”

-Dr. Andrew Bond, Medical Director, Inner City Health Associates

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