Downtown Concerned Citizens Organization

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A reported 337 homeless clients in 16 shelters were COVID positive as of March 31, city statistics show.

And a city spokesman said Friday the city’s recovery program is “near capacity” after shelter outbreaks grew over the past week.

“The city is using contingency options to increase access to isolation spaces,” the spokesman said.

Some COVID-positive clients have been referred to alternate locations such as the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre and other regional programs, said the spokesman.

The largest outbreak has been at the Homes First Willowdale Warming Centre with 80 of 125 residents COVID-positive. That North York centre was repurposed during COVID from a former refugee shelter.

Other large outbreaks have occurred at the Bond Hotel (with 46 COVID positive) and the Better Living Centre (where 42 clients are positive).

Over the past year 25 hotel programs have opened to move the homeless out of traditional shelters to ensure they were socially distanced.

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Asked whether some form of COVID variant is afflicting the homeless population, the city spokesman didn’t answer directly except to say variants of concern are more transmissible and are spreading in the community.

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“It is not unexpected to see COVID-19 cases in large congregate settings such as shelters,” the spokesman said.

A variety of service providers and Ontario health teams began vaccinating the homeless in Toronto’s shelter system on March 1.

Toronto public health reports that as of April 2, 2,750 vaccinations have been given out to clients and to staff working in shelters.

However, TPH says the vaccination is “voluntary” and their goal is to make it “as accessible as possible” for the homeless community, with more than 80 different vaccination opportunities provided to date.

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