The City of Toronto confirmed there are 30 client cases of COVID-19 in the city’s emergency shelter system and 176 have been transported to provincial assessment centres to date.
On Tuesday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the city expects more cases to arise in the shelter community new measures are in place for active screening, testing and providing isolation spaces to slow transmission and mitigate the impact of the virus.
The shelter clients that have been transported to provincial assessment centres, following the testing, are brought to a dedicated isolation space with medical and harm reduction supports as they await test results.
So far, 1,000 individuals have been moved to programs that meet a range of client needs, including spaces in community centers, hotel rooms, and permanent housing. The city is on track to move another 1000 into new spaces by April 30.
Toronto has also secured more than 1,200 spaces at 12 hotel locations to further enable physical distancing and provide isolation space. Eight of these sites are active with more to come.
One of the additional hotel sites has been activated as an isolation program with 200 spaces to respond to the increasing number of people undergoing testing.
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The Support & Housing Administration (SSHA) are working with the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) to identify those most vulnerable to the coronavirus, including the elderly and those with health conditions, to move into new spaces or add measures to protect them in pace.
According to the city, SSHA continues to lead Toronto’s three-tiered approach to protecting vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. The three tiers – prevention, mitigation and recovery – allow the city, community partners, and healthcare providers to respond to each stage of the pandemic.
One of the measures includes physical distancing, which remains one of the best ways to prevent spreading the virus. To enable people within the emergency shelter system to physically distance, since March 16, 11 new facilities have been mobilized with more than 470 spaces to allow for physical distancing.
Toronto has distributed $1.2 million among shelters, 24-hour respites, and drop-ins for cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and wage increases for frontline staff.
The new Rapid Housing Access Initiative, introduced at the start of the pandemic, has helped to prioritize access to housing for individuals in the shelter systems.
More than 250 vacant Toronto Community Housing units have been identified for the initiative and, by the end of the week, 50 people will have been housed.
Housing referrals are made through the Coordinated Access system and people matched with housing are provided with housing stability supports and home furnishings. Units are being prioritized for particularly vulnerable individuals, including seniors.
The City said they are also “looking beyond the current extreme situation and this unprecedented expansion of our service system into new locations, and considering the opportunity to leverage investments to secure properties through purchase or long-term lease to secure for future affordable and supportive housing.”