Solving Homelessness Together

New shelter service model at a glance


Traditional Homeless Shelter

Housing and Services Model


Provide shelter to people
experiencing homelessness
Provide housing supports and services for people experiencing homelessness



  • Place of last resort
  • Dangerous and a potential threat to community and service users
  • First step in returning to housing stability
  • Place of safety and an asset to the community
  • Wrap around services including housing, health, employment, culture and recreation
  • Community integration and hub for community connections


  • Staffing, service levels and approaches vary by location and organization
  • Deficit focussed
  • Services are only provided to those staying in the shelter
  • Some locations not open 24/7
  • All locations have a standardized and consistent Housing First service model that assigns each client to a housing support case worker who provides:
    • Client-centred service plans with a focus on housing with supports

    • System navigation and coordination to achieve client goals related to housing, health, employment and recreation

    • Strengths focussed approach

  • All locations open to clients 24/7
  • Services are offered to clients and community members by a range of community providers


  • Isolated from the surrounding community
  • Stand-alone building with a sole purpose
  • Lack of resources for proper maintenance and building design leads to unattractive and ineffective physical facilities
  • Large “warehouse” style layout with dormitories for sleeping
  • Design not reflective of individual client needs
  • Inclusive of community space that promotes neighbourhood integration
  • Co-location with housing and other City and community services explored
  • Well maintained and attractive design that improves and beautifies the neighbourhood
  • Based on best practice design guidelines, including:
    • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Guidelines

    • Access to technological supports

    • Green building standards

    • Smaller shared rooms in a range of sizes
    • Space considers the needs of a wide range of service users (e.g. physically accessible, inclusive of trans clients, pet friendly)Consistent branding and signage design


  • Real estate driven approach
  • Opportunistic and reactive
  • Focussed primarily on downtown core
  • Council approval of individual shelters
  • Shelter development is a divisional responsibility
  • Property development approach that leverages city-wide development opportunities and planning tools
  • Neighbourhoods identified through gap analysis and opportunity assessment
  • Communities and City Councillors help to identify potential locations across Toronto
  • Opportunities for co-location with other City services leveraged
  • Annual service plan approved by Council, implementation of specific sites by staff
  • Identify existing services that support clients and the community
  • Shelter Development is a Corporate responsibility


  • Shelter Support and Housing Administration led
  • Purpose of engagement with community is unclear
  • Impersonal and stressful engagement for the community and staff
  • Communication material often unclear, with limited distribution
  • Large town hall format meetings
  • Third party, expert led engagement with the community
  • Purpose of engagement made clear up-front
  • Communication material is positive, transparent, distributed widely and translated into other languages based on community demographics
  • Continuous engagement plan includes expanded use of technology, web-based information, smaller group meetings and public open houses
  • Program model developed in advance and shared with Councillors and community
  • Community and Councillors provide input into programming of community space
  • City Divisions and Agencies contribute to development of the service plan
  • Residents and community agencies engaged to facilitate a smooth transition of the facility into the neighbourhood


  • SSHA is the champion
  • Relies on specific individual local allies and inconsistent Councillor support
  • Citizens of Toronto are the champions
  • City as a whole provides leadership, with involvement of a range of City Divisions and Agencies, as well as local leaders
  • Councillors and Mayor provide leadership 

Data and Outcomes

  • Data collected, but not used consistently to make decisions
  • Length of stay collected and measured
  • Successful Housing outcomes tracked

Read the full staff report Proposed New Engagement and Planning Process for Emergency Shelters.