Ensuring the City Shares Accurate Shelter/Respite Capacity Numbers

2 May 2021

Early in the pandemic, we started to hear from community advocates and members of the public, who said that people experiencing homelessness were being turned away from shelters and respite sites because there was no space available, despite the City publishing information showing there was space.

Concerned, we contacted the City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration division (SSHA) to understand what was causing the discrepancy. City staff explained that the published information was on the City’s Open Data portal, which for some sites was based on a breakdown of space prior to COVID-19, before physical distancing requirements became a factor.

City staff told us they were working to update and post accurate capacity data once they had met physical distancing requirements at all sites and that, in the meantime, they had included a disclaimer on their website advising the public not to rely on the capacity data listed in the Open Data portal.

However, as the pandemic progressed, we continued to hear from members of the public and community advocates about discrepancies in SSHA’s capacity numbers. We again contacted SSHA, stressing that as a matter of fairness and transparency, the public needed—and was entitled to—accurate and up-to-date information about shelter and respite site capacity. SSHA then started to post daily capacity numbers on its website, which appear to be a more accurate reflection of shelter and respite site usage.

SSHA also told us that it would be correcting some out-of-date capacity figures in the City’s Open Data file. We continue to work with SSHA to ensure that members of the public receive clear, timely and accurate information about the critical services it provides to some of Toronto’s most vulnerable people.

Why This Matters: In any given year, shelter and respite capacity data is an important tool for people experiencing homelessness and those who advocate for them. In 2020, this information became even more important, because of people’s concerns about safe physical distancing in shelters and respite sites. We pressed SSHA to keep it current and accurate, even in difficult and changing circumstances.