Gil Penalosa Releases Plan for Safer and More Welcoming Space for Shelter Residents

Mayoral Candidate will Adopt Community-led ‘Path Forward’ Plan.

Toronto – With a newly confirmed case of monkeypox in Toronto’s shelter system, shelter safety is more urgent than ever. That’s why mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa announced today that he will adopt the recommendations contained in the community-led ‘Path Forward’ plan to create a safer and more welcoming space for shelter residents. The plan, developed by individuals with lived experience, advocates for unhoused Torontonians, and experts, supported by over 200 social service organizations and prominent residents, would ensure that shelter residents would have access to supports, information about site-specific outbreaks, and nutritious meals while not being subjected to random bed checks and overcrowding.

“As Mayor, I will work tirelessly to ensure that everyone has an affordable home of their own, but until that goal is reached there will be a need for transitional shelter space that ensures people can live with dignity,” said Penalosa. “No one’s first choice is to live in a tent. For too long, unhoused Torontonians have told the City that they are not accepting offers to move inside because they don’t feel safe in shelters. Shelter residents have a right to determine what is safe for them. It’s past time to listen and then act to ensure shelters are safe and offer needed supports.”

Prior to the violent encampment evictions last summer, homeless Torontonians and their advocates presented Toronto Council with common-sense actions to make shelters a safer and more welcoming space for residents through a motion by Councillor Josh Matlow on June 8, 2021. Unfortunately, that motion was voted down by Mayor Tory and his allies.

“Here is a mayoral candidate prepared to make revolutionary changes to the city’s negligent and dangerous shelter system. Clearly, by supporting the ‘Path Forward’ plan, he respects both human rights and the voices of the experts – homeless people and those who work with them,” said street nurse Cathy Crowe.

Gil Penalosa recognizes that, at present, shelters aren’t necessarily a healthier option to a park for unhoused Torontonians. He will move forward with the actions listed in the accompanying Backgrounder to make shelters safer and more welcoming within his first 100 days as Mayor. The enhancements to shelter sites will be paid for by not engaging in violent encampment clearings, allocating the recouped $13.2 million in funds lost outside of shelter-hotel contracts, and cancelling contracts for private security guards that have already cost the City of Toronto $1 million.

Please click here to add your voice to the chorus of Torontonian's who support Gil's plan to make Toronto's shelters safer and more welcoming. 


Gil Penalosa will move forward with the following actions to ensure shelters are safer and more welcoming for residents:

  • The provision of enhanced and consistent IPAC measures and staff training at all shelter locations.
  • Public updates around outbreaks of monkeypox, COVID-19, tuberculosis, Group A Streptococcus, and other communicable diseases within the shelter system, with outbreak sites identified by name.
  • The provision of accessible, on-site healthcare services in partnership with healthcare agencies at all shelter locations.
  • The provision of accessible and low-barrier harm reduction services on location at all shelter sites.
  • Ensure nutritious meals are available for clients, as per their specific dietary needs and restrictions.
  • Ensure appropriate accommodations for people living with disability specific to their individual health needs.
  • Ensure that clients are able to meet with a housing and health care worker within the first week of arrival to understand their needs and develop a housing and health care plan.
  • Ensure that shelter residents are able to sleep and have privacy by reviewing “bed-checks” policy.
  • Affirm and ensure that City policy is adhered to by not permitting strangers to be placed in a shared room together in shelter-hotels, and that clients have eligible possessions put in storage, including tents and sleeping bags.

  • All outreach to homeless Torontonians will be done by trained social workers, not police or private security.
  • City Streets to Home workers will provide location photos, and any other relevant information regarding available shelter space as part of an offer of indoor space, including outbreak statues, and respond fully to questions and concerns regarding on-site amenities and services at specific shelter locations.

  • Independent audits of shelter operations.
  • Ensure that shelter capacity does not exceed 90% so that space is readily available for any and all unhoused people seeking a shelter bed.
  • Create more specific spaces and services appropriate to people’s identities, understanding that Indigenous, Black, and trans people, who are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness.
  • Establish an advisory committee of current and past shelter clients to provide advice to improve shelter operations for clients.
  • Review existing shelter and respite standards and operational practices to provide a more welcoming environment, including allowing residents to have food in their room.
  • Review policies that restrict shelter access, including service restrictions, for reasons that are not direct threats to the health and safety of clients or staff, provide support to help clients meet shelter expectations, and ensure that restrictions are reviewed centrally to ensure transparency and accountability.


Funding for shelter improvements from a new approach to encampment clearings and recouping overbilling in shelter hotels:

  • $840K for trespass enforcement
  • $357K for fencing
  • $792K for park remediation

  • $1 million for private security in parks (April to September 2022)
  • An estimated $2 million for private security in parks in a yet-to-be-awarded one-year RFP commencing in September 2022

  • $5.4 million for hotel room vacancy fees
  • $5.3 million for facility surcharges on meal invoices
  • $2.4 million for "Destination Marketing Fee” charges
  • $0.1 million for additional charges



Organizations and prominent Torontonians who supported the 'Path Forward' plan:


Accessible Housing Network

All Saints Church-Community Centre

Anishnawbe Health Toronto

Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention

Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields

Church of the Epiphany and St. Mark

Church of the Redeemer — The Common Table

Davenport Mutual Aid Network

Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre

Encampment Support Network


Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations

Fontbonne Ministries

Friends of Ruby

Good to Be Good Foundation

Health Providers Against Poverty

Homeless Connect Toronto

Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group, St. Matthew's United Church

Inner City Family Health Team

Inner City Health Associates

Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto

Neighbourhood Pods TO

North York Community House

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Osgoode Environmental Justice Clinic

Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre

Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre

Progress Toronto

Queers Crash the Beat

Ralph Thornton Community Centre

Regent Park Community Health Centre

Right to Housing Toronto


Seeds of Hope Foundation

Showing Up for Racial Justice — Toronto


Social Justice & Advocacy Committee — Anglican Diocese of Toronto

Social Planning Toronto

South Riverdale Community Health Centre

Spadina-Fort York Community Care

Street Health

Street Nurses Network

Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre

The Neighbourhood Group Community Services

The Stop Community Food Centre

Toronto Drop-in Network

Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance

Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction

Toronto Neighbourhood Centres

Toronto Overdose Prevention Society

Toronto Prisoners' Rights Project

Toronto Raging Grannies

Toronto Tiny Shelters

Unitarian Commons


Voices of Scarborough (Scarborough Residents and Tenants)

Warden Woods Community Centre

West Neighbourhood House

West Scarborough Community Legal Services

Working For Change


Abe Oudshoorn, Associate Professor, Nursing, Western University; Managing Editor, International Journal on Homelessness

Alexandra Flynn, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Alison Kemper, Former Co-chair, Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, City of Toronto

Andrew Boozary, MD, SM

Andrew Lochead, Activist / Artist (Rename Dundas Street); PhD Candidate, X University

Anna Willats, Coordinator / Professor, George Brown College

Bob Rose, Mental Health / Homeless Recovery Advocate

Bri Gardner, Housing Advocate

Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse

David Hulchanski, Professor, Housing and Community Development, University of Toronto

Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (2015 – 2019)

Dr. Adriana Di Stefano (MD, CFPC), Steering Committee Member, Health Providers Against Poverty

Drew Silverthorn, (MSW, BSW, RSW), Community Mental Health Social Worker / Chair, Health Providers Against Poverty (2020)

Eric Paul Weissman, Assistant Professor, Social Science, University of New Brunswick; Activist / Filmmaker

Estair Van Wagner, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Griffin Epstein, Professor, Social Service Work, George Brown College

Jennifer Hollett, Community Leader

John Caffery, Activist / Artist (Hall of Justice); Professor, George Brown College

John Clarke, Packer Visitor in Social Justice, York University

John Sewell, Mayor of Toronto (1978 – 1980)

John Stapleton, Principal, Open Policy Ontario

John van Nostrand, Architect, Planner and Housing Developer

Lauren Bulckaert, Professor, Addiction and Mental Health Work, Centennial College

Lynne Brennan, Professor, Community Worker Program, George Brown College

Martine August, Assistant Professor, School of Planning, University of Waterloo

Melissa Goldstein, Housing Advocate

Naheed Dosani, MD

Nahum Mann, Community Organizer

Nathan Stall, MD, FRCPC

Olivia Chow, MP (2006 – 2014)

Rabbi Jordan Helfman, Holy Blossom Temple

Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, MPP (2006 – 2017); Minister, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice, and the Arts

Rev. Dr. Jason McKinney, Church of the Epiphany and St. Mark

Rev. Dr. John Joseph Mastandrea, Manor Road United Church, Toronto

Roger Hollander, Toronto Councillor for Don River (1987 – 1994)

Rusa Jeremic, Professor, Community Worker Program, George Brown College

Sarah Rehou, MS, Housing Advocate

Shiri Pasternak, Assistant Professor, Criminology, X University

Terra Gillespie, Community Activist

Tommy Taylor, Frontline Shelter Worker / Community Safety and Well-being Consultant

William Payne, Contract Faculty, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University


Aerin Fogel, Artistic Director, Venus Fest

Akash Banal, DJ (Tender Buttons)

Alex Baigent, Musician (Westlaken)

Amanda Crist, Musician (Ice Cream)

Andrew Wilson, Musician (Sahara)

Andy Shauf, Musician

Anna May Henry, Artist

Annie Koyama, Publisher, Koyama Press

April Aliermo, Musician (Phèdre)

Ardene Shapiro, Musician

Brendo Black, Musician / Cinematographer

Carlyn Bezic, Musician (Jane Inc.)

Carmen Yanuziello, Musician (Carmen Elle / gay hollywood)

Charlotte Cornfield, Musician

Chris de Castro, Designer (Hand Eye Society); Board Member (Wavelength)

Cindy Li, DJ / Producer (Ciel / Discwoman)

Clara Engel, Musician

Daniel Hanna, CEO, Eyesore Cinema Ltd.

Daniel Hartrell, Musician / Creative Director

Daniel Lee, Musician (Phèdre)

David Dacks, Executive Director, The Music Gallery

David Lush, Musician (Analytica / Memorex)

David Psutka, Musician (Halocline Trance)

Diana Lynn VanderMeulen, Visual Artist

Dr. Henry Warwick, Composer; Assistant Professor, RTA School of Media, X University

Edan Scime Stokell, Musician (Sahara)

Emma Kulcsar, Interior Designer

Gabe Knox, Musician (Gabe Knox / Analytica)

Harley Haskett, Musician / Graphic Designer

Hayden Desser, Musician (Hayden)

Hayley Elsaesser, Fashion Designer

Henri Fabergé, Performing Artist

Isla Craig, Musician

James Harris, Video Editor / Musician (Cosmic Resonance)

Janina Kiersnowski, Filmmaker / DJ

Jay Anderson, Musician (Badge Époque Ensemble)

Jay Cheel, Filmmaker

Jeffrey Dupuis, Novelist; Editor, The Quarantine Review

Jesse Crowe, Musician (Praises / Beliefs)

Jesse Laderoute, Musician (Blonde Elvis / Catholic Wilt)

Jesse Wick, Musician / Artist

Jessica Kaera Cho, Musician (Korea Town Acid)

Joel Lee, Designer

Jon Bartlett, Director, Kelp Management

Jon Schouten, Co-owner, Telephone Explosion Records

Jonathan Pappo, Musician (Scott Hardware / No Frills / Elrichman / Context / NA)

Jordan Seccareccia, Musician (Westlaken)

Joshua McGuirk, Artist / DJ / Musician; Producer, MTV / Much Music

Julia Dickens, DJ / Artist (The Loving Echo)

Julian Taylor, Musician (Julian Taylor Band)

Karen Ng, Musician; Co-founder, TONE Festival

Karla Hauser, Visual Artist / DJ

Kat Estacio, Artist / Musician (Pantayo)

Kate McIntosh, Event Organizer, On Earth

Katrina Estacio, Musician (Pantayo)

Kevin Drew, Musician (Broken Social Scene)

Kritty Uranowski, Musician (Lavender Bruisers)

Laura Elliott, DJ (Loxxe)

Lido Pimienta, Musician

Linus Booth, Musician

Lisa Conway, Artist/Musician (L CON)

Liz Hysen, Musician

Lucas Temor, Musician (Westlaken)

Ludovic Bacs, DJ (Immigrant Muscle)

Lukas Switlicki, Event Organizer, City Dance Initiative

Lyndsey Gallant, Art Director

Maev Beaty, Theatre Artist

Matt King, Musician (Absolutely Free)

Maximilian Turnbull, Musician (Badge Époque Ensemble)

Meg Remy, Musician (U.S. Girls)

Michael DeForge, Illustrator

Michael Edward Barry, DJ / Musician (The Robotic Kid / The Hidden Cameras)

Michael Rancic, Freelance Music Journalist

Mike Haliechuk, Musician (Fucked Up)

Mingjia Chen, Musician

Nathan Heuvingh, Curatorial and Programming Lead (Myseum of Toronto); Musician (Bad River)

Nathan Jurevicius, Illustrator

Nikki Little, Musician

Nimit Malavia, Illustrator

Nyssa Rosaleen, Musician (Nyssa)

Olivia Statler, Art Therapist, Plum Blossom Mindful Arts

Peter Kuplowsky, Producer / Film Curator (Midnight Madness)

Raf Reza, DJ / Producer

Riaz Charania, Marketing Manager (Myseum of Toronto)

Rob McLay, Musician (Westlaken)

Robin Dann, Musician (Bernice)

Rollie Pemberton, Musician (Cadence Weapon)

S.Marshall Dragert, Producer / Perfomer / Organizer (Menla)

Sachin Mohindra, Musician (Short Bloom)

Sanjeet Takhar, Artistic Director, Music Gallery

Sarah Tumaliuan, MPH (Dalla Lana School of Public Health); Arts, Culture, and Heritage Worker (Myseum of Toronto / Parks N' Wreck)

Serena Ryder, Musician

Shamanta Chandran, Musician (WeTurnToRed)

Shary Boyle, Artist; Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Ontario College of Art and Design University

Shaun Bowring, Owner (The Garrison / Baby G); Co-chair, Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC)

Sheryl Lindsay, Community Worker / Musician

Sophia Ruby Katz, Writer / Artist / Musician (Ferrari Garden, Jasmine Rivers)

Stephen Lambke, Musician (Constantines); Arts Administrator

Tamara Lindeman, Musician (The Weather Station)

Tim Shannon, DJ / Music Programmer

Troy Jackson, Musician

Tyler Clark Burke, Artist

Vaughn Robert Squire, DJ / Musician (Sixtoo)

Victoria Cheong, Musician (New)

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