City partners with Homes First to introduce temporary hotel shelter program at 45 The Esplanade
Over the past year, we've seen just how important access to safe, secure shelter is when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19. While we are asking everyone to practice physical distancing and to stay home right now, the hard reality is that you can’t stay home if you don’t have one. We have a collective responsibility to do what we can to support our community members who are most vulnerable to this virus, including people who are experiencing homelessness.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the City of Toronto has been working around the clock to make our shelter system safe for the over 7,000 people who access these services each night. This means creating the space for physical distancing in shelters, by activating dozens of new facilities to create space between beds and areas to limit transmission.
As recommended by Toronto Public Health, later this month the hotel at 45 The Esplanade will begin to be used for temporary shelter services, with adequate space for safe physical distancing. The new shelter program will be operated by Homes First, an organization with more than 35 years of experience caring for the most vulnerable members of our community. The temporary shelter will provide comprehensive wrap-around support for its clients, including mental and physical health supports, on-site recreational and social engagement, harm reduction supports exclusively for residents of the shelter, and specialized staff who will work with residents to develop permanent housing and employment plans.
The service currently operated by St. Felix at 98 The Esplanade will close in the Spring of 2021. Clients will be referred to other services appropriate to meet their needs, including to the program at 45 The Esplanade.
Resources have been allocated to ensure that there is 24-hour staffing and security on site, as well as two 24/7 neighbourhood Community Safety Teams to circulate in the neighbourhood to address issues. At the hotel, additional measures will be in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, including a standard public health screening process at all points of entry. The City has procedures in place to ensure that anyone who needs to be tested for COVID-19 is quickly identified, receives transportation directly to a testing centre, and resides at the City's dedicated isolation facility until the test results are received. The City has also established dedicated recovery facilities in other hotels with appropriate medical supports for people experiencing homelessness who test positive, but who do not require hospitalization, where clients can stay until their isolation period has passed. You can read more about the public health measures for the 45 Esplanade temporary shelter here.
The City is hosting a public information session for community members on February 18, 2021 from 7 to 9 pm. The link to the online session will be available here one day before the session is scheduled.
A public notice is being mailed to community members who live nearby next week.
Following the public meeting, an ongoing Community Liaison Committee (CLC) will be formed made up of representatives of the community (condo boards, resident associations, businesses or local community organizations) that meets semi-regularly to address questions, share information, discuss and collectively problem solve community concerns.
While emergency responses like this temporary shelter hotel program while critical to protect people and stop the spread of COVID-19 at present, these responses alone will not solve chronic homelessness or our city's housing crisis. The stark reality facing those without adequate homes is a multi-year wait for supportive housing and years-long waiting list for affordable housing, and skyrocketing market rents across our city.
The bottom line for all governments is that providing people with access to permanent, affordable housing that meets their needs is cheaper in the long-run than if people experiencing homelessness are in shelters or hospital beds. It's also the right thing to do.
I will continue to urge the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario, and Government of Canada to work together to put public health first by ending chronic homelessness, and to leverage our emergency shelter response into permanent support for affordable and supportive housing solutions.