City of Toronto supporting people living in encampments with safe, supportive indoor space

The City of Toronto continually provides safe, inside space to people living outside, with programs that support mental and physical health and offer meals, as well as assistance in securing employment and permanent housing. Living outside has a significant, negative impact on overall health and well-being.

Just as importantly, encampments are not safe and not legal.

Pathway Inside, a new City program, is focused on those living in encampments at four priority sites, namely Moss Park, Alexandra Park, Trinity Bellwoods and Lamport Stadium, that are subject to increased health and safety concerns. The City has secured safe space inside hotel programs for everyone at these four sites.

The Pathway Inside team has engaged daily with people living outside, listening to, and understanding their needs. In addition to providing safe, inside space, the City has worked to establish greater coordination, cooperation and communication among those experiencing homelessness, with their advocates, partner agencies and the surrounding communities.

There are many varied and complex reasons why someone may live outside. Through ongoing engagement, the City heard that people need programs close to their existing supports, with inside space not just for single occupancy but also for couples. They also need on-site harm reduction. Pathway Inside addresses these needs.

In February, the City opened a new, temporary, downtown hotel program with more than 250 rooms at 45 The Esplanade for people living outside. The City is prioritizing people living at the four sites who have engaged with staff and assisting them with transition to 45 The Esplanade and other hotel programs by April.

Since the start of COVID-19, nearly 1,400 people experiencing homelessness and living outside have accepted referrals by the City and its partner agencies to safe, inside spaces. When the pandemic struck, the City opened more than 40 additional sites across Toronto as part of the COVID-19 response to provide physical distancing within the shelter system. This is in addition to the 75 base shelter sites offered across Toronto.

While the City will continue efforts to assist those living outside to transition into temporary shelters, permanent housing is the ultimate solution to homelessness.

In 2020, the City helped almost 6,100 people experiencing homelessness move from the City's shelter system into permanent housing. In the last two months alone, the City and its partner agencies secured permanent housing for at least 28 individuals who were sleeping outside, some in encampments.

The City is taking urgent action to create and open affordable housing with support services for people who were homeless. Since December 2020, the City has opened 220 affordable, supportive homes specifically geared to people experiencing homelessness. In 2021, the City will make a total of 1,248 new, affordable housing opportunities ready for occupancy, including 798 net new, affordable, rental homes. The City’s Action Plan on Affordable Housing will see 40,000 affordable homes created by 2030.

Quotes:

"We have worked throughout the pandemic with our community partners to make sure our most vulnerable residents have safe, indoor housing options. This work is continuing and is a priority for myself and every member of City Council. That's why we are providing more affordable housing spaces, why we have expanded the shelter system with the help of the federal and provincial governments to add more spaces than ever before over the last several years and why we have worked since the pandemic began to establish new shelters to ensure proper physical distancing along with every other COVID-19 protocol advised by health officials. We have taken unprecedented action with the help of the federal government to open up new shelter spaces and get supportive housing units built. We have given our Shelter, Support and Housing staff direction to do everything needed to house homeless residents. That is why we are continuing to open up new emergency shelters in hotels across the city and opening up every Toronto Community Housing unit we can. Safe, indoor housing that helps people heal and move into more permanent housing is my goal and should be our collective goal so we can save lives and protect the health of all of our residents.”

- Mayor John Tory

"The greatness of a city depends largely on its commitment to the long-term well-being of its least fortunate residents. Pathway Inside is designed to provide comfortable spaces for people experiencing homelessness along with the extensive supports they need to remain safe and healthy. It is an essential building block in our efforts to ensure that everyone in our City has a warm and secure place to live".

- Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee

"The Pathway Inside initiative is an excellent first step for those experiencing homelessness. It provides the short-term assistance people need as they move with our support toward permanent housing that is safe, secure and stable. A permanent home is the foundation upon which all other successes are built."

- Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao (Davenport), Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee

“Every person deserves a safe and secure home. In fact, housing is their right. Housing, permanent and safe housing. That is what we must work tirelessly for. That is what our City of Toronto Pathway Inside program will help achieve”.

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

"The pathway to ending homelessness includes safe accommodations and extensive supports centred around the vulnerable person. It's the first step to decent, permanent housing and a social determinant of good health. I'm grateful to those who have been working non-stop to ensure this happens."

- Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre)

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