The City has extended two continuous cold weather drop-in services, which have been available on a continuous basis for most of the winter, until April 15, and a third until March 18.
Two 24-hour services for women operate 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.
The City's response to rising demand for shelter is to make more beds available and to heighten coordinated efforts to house long-term users of the shelter system. Since December 2016, almost 400 beds have been added to the shelter system and an estimated 275 people experiencing homelessness and staying in shelter or "sleeping rough" have moved into homes of their own through the combined work of staff in City and community operated shelters and outreach programs since the beginning of January 2017.
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 per cent higher than a year previously. Shelter demand from families continues to be high, in part because of a significant increase in intakes from families seeking refugee status. The number of clients citing refugee status as the reason for needing service has grown to almost 20 per cent of all shelter service users. For more information see the March 14 news release.