City of Toronto working with community and social services to help residents during the COVID-19 pandemic

News Release

March 20, 2020

City of Toronto working with community and social services to help residents during the COVID-19 pandemic

This afternoon, Mayor John Tory and City of Toronto officials announced actions the municipal government is taking to help essential service workers with child care options; vulnerable residents such as seniors; people affected by untreated trauma, mental health and addictions; people in need of housing supports and emergency food access; and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City is committed to doing everything it can to help residents during this extremely difficult time.

Support for vulnerable residents

To ensure that the needs of vulnerable residents are met during the COVID-19 emergency, the City is working in partnership with social service agencies to address issues that arise in the community service sector.

A City-Community Response Table meets daily and includes representatives from more than 30 agencies across Toronto and 11 City divisions. This group is working to identify new and emerging issues affecting vulnerable Torontonians during the COVID-19 emergency and to plan city-wide responses to address and resolve these issues, for example, food security and community resource needs.

The City is also partnering with community agencies like the United Way Greater Toronto to help agencies and groups communicate with each other so they can continue to do their important work of serving Torontonians as well as communicate with Councillors and other services providers. Toronto Aboriginal Social Services Council (TASSC) is also leading the coordinated Indigenous response and will collaborate with the City and United Way.

All long-term care homes continue to care for residents. For seniors not living in a long-term care home, Seniors Services and Long-Term Care continues to provide essential support services to seniors already enrolled in their Supportive Housing program with personal care, medication reminders, and safety checks. Many community agencies offer supports to seniors including Meals on Wheels, friendly visiting, transportation to appointments, personal support, and adult day programs. Seniors and caregivers should check with the individual agencies to confirm continuity of service delivery. Call 211 (available 24/7 in 150+ languages) to obtain up-to-date information.

Other resources for seniors include:

  • Toronto Seniors Helpline:416-217-2077 or 1-877-621-2077, for support and referral to services
  • Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Home Care: 310-2222 (no area code required) to find out about services in their area
  • Distress Centres of Toronto: 416-408-4357, 416-408-HELP
  • Seniors Safety Line (Elder Abuse Ontario): 1-866-299-1011
Food Security Table to ensure access to food

Access to food is a major issue for residents that live near or below the poverty line. Community food programs, which include food banks, are a vital part of our communities, especially in times of crisis. To ensure that Toronto’s food programs can stay open during the outbreak, the City has convened a Food Security Table (including Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank and Red Cross) to receive updates and find solutions for food access issues.

The City is calling on all restaurants that are still providing take-out and delivery services and businesses that sell food to consider donating any type of unsold, good food through Residents who are able, are also encouraged to donate essentials to their local food bank.

Child care for essential and core service workers

The City of Toronto is working with the province of Ontario to find ways to help health care workers and emergency responders and other essential workers with child care. We hope to have further updates on this shortly.

Volunteers to help deliver essential services

Non-profit agencies in the community services sector are also facing a shortage of volunteers to help with delivering essential services. The City is urging non-profit organizations and agencies to do the following to help facilitate connecting residents willing to volunteer to organizations and agencies who need the help:

  1. Update or add information about current operations to 211’s database
  2. Register volunteer needs through Spark Ontario at and/or with Volunteer Toronto at Volunteer Toronto has waived the fee associated with posting volunteer positions.
Residents interested in volunteering should register with the above-mentioned websites to get alerts for volunteer opportunities (some of which may be remote), call Volunteer Toronto at 416-961-6888 or email [email protected] to connect with an advisor to discuss volunteer opportunities. Non-profit organizations and agencies’ staff are practicing infection prevention measures within their operations and volunteers would be required to do the same.

Although many places across Toronto have been closed due to social distancing measures, there are still social services supports available for residents in need. Through 211, operators can connect residents to income supports, distress lines, and mental health supports to name a few. Call 211, text 21166, or live chat with 211 agents Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., or visit to search for services.

Please continue to check for details and updates as they are made.


"In the midst of this crisis, as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect people's health and safety, the City of Toronto is doing everything it can to help our residents and there will be more relief measures to come in the days ahead for people and businesses and organizations who are struggling. We have to take care of people who need our help – it's what the city does well during the best of times and it is what we must do during these trying times. City staff and community organizations are working together to ensure that we identify gaps in service so that we can continue to effectively support vulnerable residents throughout this pandemic. This is all about making sure those who need help now from the City continue to receive it."

- Mayor John Tory

“We know that the fast evolving COVID-19 situation is having an impact on many social and community services that residents of our city rely on. These critical services – from support for seniors self-isolating at home to access to food for people on low incomes – will be part of the City’s response and our commitment to protect the health and wellbeing of all Torontonians.”

- City Councillor and Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy

“Leveraging our partnerships, not just with the community, but with businesses as well, is critical during an emergency like this. As we see this situation changing daily we must work with our partners to find solutions quickly to address emerging issues.”

- Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, Chair, Economic and Community Development Committee

" As the largest investor in social services next to government, United Way stands with our City partners to ensure Toronto’s network of community agencies can best support our most vulnerable in these unprecedented times. People who already face significant barriers of poverty, homelessness and social isolation need help more than ever. We’re all in this together, and it is together that we will get through this. That’s the power of community."

- Daniele Zanotti, President & CEO United Way Greater Toronto

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