City of Toronto publishes new data to inform solutions to homelessness

Today, the City of Toronto released a new dashboard with data on how people enter and exit the shelter system, known as Shelter System Flow, that will be used to inform ongoing efforts to develop permanent solutions to address homelessness.

The new data provides information about people experiencing homelessness as they access and transition through the City’s municipally-funded shelter system. The data also provides a more comprehensive picture of the shelter system than the traditional measures, which only looks at nightly occupancy and capacity.

The new dashboard supports the City’s HousingTO Action Plan commitment to develop and regularly report on performance indicators that measure progress towards ensuring that experiences of homelessness are rare, brief and non-recurring.

A data-driven strategy to target interventions and measure progress in real time has been critical to success in other North American cities that have achieved reductions in chronic homelessness. Here in Toronto, the data will support a better understanding of who is experiencing homelessness and how the homelessness service system is functioning.

The data presents aggregate information on anyone who has used a shelter, hotel shelter program, 24-hour respite site or Warming Centre within the last three months, based on information from the City’s Shelter Management Information System (SMIS). Demographic information in the data includes age and gender. Enhancements to the SMIS system currently underway will enable additional data on racial identity, Indigenous identity, veteran status and information about people who are sleeping outdoors to be added.

The data is presented on the City website through a public dashboard, available at www.toronto.ca/city-government/data-research-maps/research-reports/housing-and-homelessness-research-and-reports/shelter-system-flow-data/, which will be updated monthly. The data will be also available through the City’s Open Data Portal.

The dashboards, which were developed by City staff using existing resources, include:

  • a Monthly Snapshot highlighting the number of people entering and exiting the shelter system in the reporting month
  • a Historical Trends overview of people entering and exiting the shelter system over time that can be filtered by sub-populations and time periods.

The data included in the dashboard are part of the development of a Coordinated Access System for housing with supports in Toronto and a requirement of the federal Reaching Home program. The data further supports Toronto’s participation in the national Built for Zero campaign, led by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH).

More than 6,000 people use the shelter system each night, and the new data included in the dashboard shows that 7,829 people were actively experiencing homelessness at the end of January and had used the shelter system at least once in the past three months. This winter the City has added 680 number of spaces as part of its Winter Response Plan. Since April, the City has referred more than 1,300 people from encampments across the city to safer indoor spaces.

The City has been working with community partners and health professionals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect people experiencing homelessness and assist them to move to permanent housing.

Shelter System Flow shows that more than 6,000 people exited the shelter system to permanent housing in 2020, of which close to 3,000 were assisted with a housing allowance or through the Rapid Re-housing Initiative with Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

Quotes:

“These new reporting dashboards are an important step in our collective efforts to addressing homelessness in Toronto and are an important part of the City’s data modernization efforts. I applaud the work our Shelter, Support and Housing staff are doing along with our community partners to better understand and meet the needs of the city’s most vulnerable people and I look forward to the improvements and adaptations to the shelter system this data will bring to light.”

– Mayor John Tory

The City must understand the needs of people experiencing homelessness if we are to deliver the service and supports needed for them to move into permanent housing. Advancements in our access to reliable data about the City’s homeless population are essential for us to modernize our approach to the operation of the emergency shelter system.”

– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee

“The Shelter System Flow data released today is a huge step forward for ending homelessness in Toronto. This is the most comprehensive and transparent public dashboard of its kind in Canada. Armed with this real-time, person specific data, Toronto will now be able to better target resources, improve homeless system coordination and most importantly, accelerate reductions in homelessness.”

-Tim Richter, President and CEO, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

“This new data is one of the critical tools we need to make homelessness in Toronto rare, brief and non-recurring. It will enable both community service providers and the City to respond more effectively to the needs of people experiencing homelessness and highlight the impact of targeting our resources and strategies to permanent solutions to homelessness.”

– Kira Heineck, Executive Director of the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness