Community Conversation: Return to in-person

EYET’s Community Conversation: Return to in-person: Emerging from the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the Community Conversation on August 18, 2022, we hosted a panel discussion with three distinguished guests, each holding management positions within well-known non-profit agencies. They provided their views on how demand for services increased throughout the pandemic and what that entailed for frontline staff at their respective locations. We learned that a high demand for services has continued along with creative and innovative approaches for addressing persistent challenges.

In facilitated small-group conversations, we found that participants were experiencing some of the same challenges at their places of work. Clients appear to have the same or similar needs, as they did during the pandemic, including a need for housing, food security, and employment to name a few.

See below for highlights from the panel discussion followed by notes taken during the breakout activity organized under themes.

Highlights from August 18th Panel Discussion with Alaka Brahma, Rejwan Karim, Sarah Singh:

  • During the first part of the pandemic a number of agencies saw an increase in funding for programs addressing the impacts on community members.
  • Agencies also saw a huge increase in demand for all types of services (Ex. housing, food security, employment, etc.)
  • Demand in housing services has resulted in having to prioritize which clients to help first. For example, helping a survivor of domestic violence versus a first time applicant to Access to Housing.
  • Many of our services had to pivot to virtual, but now that in person offices are opening up again there is an expectation that hybrid models will continue. In some cases, staff were making home visits during the pandemic and now clients are expecting the same level of service while funding cuts are beginning to take place.
  • It was noted that client mental health has been a challenge for frontline staff with more complaints happening. To address this, agencies have been providing training to staff members on de-escalation and conflict resolution, for example.
  • Ensuring staff wellness is also a concern for Managers. Managers have had to make sure staff are well and staff have had to take care of themselves in order to be there for clients.
  • Another strategy mentioned involves placing caps on the number of applications staff have to process to a level staff can realistically achieve.
  • Future outlook is uncertain. Will our services have to close down again? Trying to prepare for that. It is important to reflect on what has been learned and bring these learnings into the future. For example, make sure there is a pool of relief staff to ensure a level of continued service, if staff need to be away.

Notes taken during Breakout Groups:

Hybrid Models

  • Some drop-ins never closed, even during pandemic shutdown restrictions
  • Hybrid (in person, over the phone, by email, visits at home or out in the community)
  • Partially closed agencies that clients had a hard time navigating
  • Agencies that underwent location changes during the pandemic placing more stress on to staff

What we learned: Whether or not an organization closed to in person services during the pandemic, the demand for services has generally gone up and has not decreased. This also means that for services that went virtual or hybrid, there is now an expectation that these alternative service models (in person, over the phone, by email, visits at home and/or out in the community) should continue and have in essence created more work for service professionals.

Challenges Facing our Clients

  • Continued housing crisis at the municipal, provincial and national levels.
  • Clients with mental health, anxiety and anger about the housing situation.
  • Clients not being able to access “in demand” services right away. Having to wait in line just like everybody else.
  • New Access to Housing online centralized waitlist portal: 1) Clients not being able to use the portal independently (no email or laptop) and staff having to essentially process 100% of the application for them. 2) Getting client’s paperwork together for the Access to Housing application (e.g. taxes). 3) Even if someone expresses interest in a unit, does not mean that they will get the unit.
  • The wait for Special Priority Category (SPP) application is more than 1 year to get offers.
  • SPP clients have to live in abusive situations longer. Or live in shelters longer.
  • Continued housing challenges in the private rental market (bidding wars, discriminatory practices by landlords, affordability, etc.)
  • Increased poverty
  • Client scenario: A family of refugees from Afghanistan. They were asked for 4 to 5 months’ rent in advance. It seems as if landlords can ask for anything they want. The family is completely dependent on food banks. They have no furniture. Currently sleeping on carpets.

Strategies and Tactics

  • Staff and managers are having to work together and use what they have access to.
  • Workload caps on the number of clients being served.
    • Even though this helps so that workers don’t get overwhelmed or overworked. This does not necessarily address situations where new clients approach an agency saying that they are about to lose their place or instances where they have already lost their place. So demand is still there.
  • Limiting time spent in direct service with individual clients and placing time limits for how long a client can stay at a drop-in.
  • Frontline staff having to offer emotional support and validation to clients. At the same time asking clients for their patience because this is the reality of the situation right now.

Staff Mental Health and Burnout

  • Supportive supervisors that recognize when staff are becoming overworked and allow for some flexibility to manage this (by allowing staff to come in later the next day for instance).
  • Managers frequently checking in with staff to avoid burnout.
  • Vacation days for staff and ability to arrange coverage.
  • Staff having to move out of Toronto for more affordable housing. Trying to call them back to work is challenging, if they require child care.

Our Present Situation

  • Resources still being offered are helpful like food bank services, hygiene kits, harm reduction supplies, etc.
  • The message from one group was that this is only the beginning of hard times to come. We are not through the pandemic.
  • Regarding funding cuts to housing support programs:
    • We haven’t seen the impact of this as of yet.
    • There is a lack of housing for people.
    • Are cuts to funding going to escalate the current housing crisis?
    • All services are under-resourced. E.g. Food banks, mental health supports, etc.
    • Due to increased poverty it may become more difficult to manage clients living in these situations
    • Essentially there will be less housing resources for people in this city.

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Challenges and barriers for LGBTQ+ Newcomers

EYET’s Community Conversation: Exploring challenges and barriers for LGBTQ+ Newcomers

During the Community Conversation on April 27, 2022, we invited a guest presenter from Access Alliance Multicultural Health & Community Services to speak about key findings from their 2021 published report on Beyond Positive Intentions – supporting the social services sector with the purpose of advancing well-being and equity for LGBTQ+ Newcomers. 

In the facilitated small-group conversations, most event participants did not find this report surprising as many of them have witnessed that LGBTQ +Newcomers are one the most vulnerable and neglected groups in our communities. Unfortunately, they often arrive here in the mind that you could find a safe space, but find it challenging to settle down. 

In the breakout groups, participants also discussed the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ Newcomers and shared some solutions and resources. Click Here to see a list of resources for LGBTQ+ Newcomers.

Key Challenges Identified: 

  • In one instance, an LGBTQ+ Newcomer stayed with family members for a certain amount of time, and when the family found out about their sexual orientation, they had to leave. 
  • In general, LGBTQ+ Newcomers face problems of having no privacy and staying in unacceptable accommodations like a storage room. 
  • Citizenship status is a big issue. 
  • Barriers faced by LGBTQ+ Newcomers include being disrespected and excluded even within LGBTQ+ specific services.  
  • The experiences of refugees with families, and if services change for them when they disclose their LGBTQ+ identity. 
  • A main challenge for health service providers/practitioners is making ‘dead end’ referrals to housing support, which results in clients being placed on a 15 year wait list. 
  • Within primary care, lack of knowledge and awareness of community resources for this population. 
  • Newcomers face discrimination with landlords in regards to race, their source of income and having low income.  
  • Landlords request a credit check, but LGBTQ+ Newcomers don’t have a history in the country. 
  • Income is a big challenge for newcomers. There is simply not enough transitional or supportive housing. 
  • Private market rental units are mostly unaffordable. 
  • Housing workers work from ‘Housing First’ model, but this could represent a barrier – clients need to focus on finding housing rather than securing work that could assist them in finding and maintaining housing. 
  • Other barriers include language, low knowledge of Canada/city they are in, combined with addressing mental health and/or emotional needs. 
  • There are very few services for individuals with intersecting identities (ex. trans man who is pregnant). The more variables in a person’s life the harder it is. 


  • Spreading knowledge of rental laws, and the tenants’ rights. It is essential to have information like this in the particular language, keeping LGBTQ+ Newcomers in mind. 
  • LGBTQ+ Newcomers often require more privacy in some cases. There should be a recognition of this and there should be more subsidies available to them. 
  • Mandatory training for landlords. 
  • A forum like this needs to be created where community workers can speak with other people in similar fields. More awareness and education need to be created to advocate for LGBTQ+ Newcomers at various levels.  
  • More agencies should start having these discussions. There should be best practices developed. 
  • Sharing of available resources is important so that whenever community workers meet people who need them, good connections are already established to refer them. 
  • City-run shelter workers need to get ongoing training and information about how to work with this population. 
  • There should be more hiring of LGBTQ+ newcomers in helping roles, to create more visibility. 
  • Housing is a human right and should be looked at this way by everyone including landlords. 
  • It is important to know that sometimes LGBTQ+ Newcomers want to avoid people from their own communities. 
  • Even though more shelters are being made for Newcomers. More needs to be done for LGBTQ+ Newcomers, specifically. 
  • One-time training is not enough to address the needs of LGBTQ+ Newcomers. Accountability is important and involves leadership and government to get involved. 
  • Accountability mechanisms should be in place where complaints can be brought to municipal government / housing commissioner. 
  • More needs to be done on the ground. An example is rotation of shelter staff. Agencies often use casual, on calls or relief staff. Communication between these staff and regular employees needs to improve. Clients are having to repeat their needs and story, which lacks consistency and could be triggering for these individuals. 
  • Shelter staff need to use an intersectional lens and try not to erase culture. Clients should be allowed to keep their identities and staff should learn how to address diversity, inclusion and equity.

Click Here to see a list of resources for LGBTQ+ Newcomers

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Aging in Place

EYET’s Community Conversation: Aging in Place, Featuring the Steering Committee on Aging in Place, Toronto 

People living with mental illness and addictions have complex health and social needs, are at higher risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness, and housing instability, and are at a higher risk of experiencing the effects of aging prematurely. People aging prematurely – before the age of 65 – are unable to access supports and services, including supportive housing, that is reserved for seniors in the community.  

In 2019, the Aging in Place Project, funded by Mainstay Housing and supported by the Aging in Place multi-stakeholder Steering Committee, produced Aging in Place: Current and Emerging Needs of a Vulnerable Population.  

On September 15, 2021, EYET invited the Steering Committee on Aging in Place, Toronto, to participate in a Community Conversation focused on engaging with housing professionals about how to better support the unique housing needs of a prematurely aging population. 

During this Community Conversation, members of the Aging in Place Steering Committee spoke to key findings from that report, identified some of the unique needs of an early aging population, and offered some insights into the systemic barriers to housing stability that are faced by this community.  

Using facilitated small-group conversations, housing professionals discussed the challenges experienced related to housing stability and evection prevention for clients who are aging prematurely, shared strategies that they and their organizations use to manage those challenges, discussed resources that exist – or are missing – that would be helpful for housing professionals, and identified some of the system changes that would be required to support stable housing for people who are aging prematurely.  

Key Challenges Identified: 

Access to Suitable Housing Options  

  • Waitlists through Access Point is extremely long, leaving many people waiting until the end of their loves  
  • There are some housing options that can be accessed at age 55, but there are not enough spaces for seniors, let along options for younger people who exhibit the signs of aging early 
  • Buildings with elevators – and program services and housing with elevators – is limited, and accommodation requests will frequently leave people with mobility limitations unhoused or rejected from applications  
  • There are some congregate living houses that are agency-operated, but they often have stairs and are not physically accessible, and there is not enough funding allocated to those upgrades by funders  
  • There is a severe limitation of available long-term care for people who are not seniors  

Available Supports 

  • Clients that experience premature aging often need connection to supports that are targeted and available to seniors. Because this population do not meet the age eligibility requirements, they are left without access, creating a gap in needs-to-services 
  • Medication costs can be extremely high, and there are no income supports committed to prescription coverage for a prematurely aging population 
  • Many clients need a case management approach to providing supports, but service agencies are limited and there are not enough case managers to support their needs, help them manage their health and wellbeing, and maintain their housing 

Eligibility Limitations  

  • Some services are eligible to very specific, severe cases and people whose health is deteriorating rapidly are unable to apply until their condition meets eligibility, even though there is a clear trajectory in place  
  • Income supports are limited, ODSP does not cover enough for housing and clients are ineligible for other seniors-specific funding and income supports, despite sharing many of the same barriers, challenges, and needs 
  • Seniors’ waitlists are long, and clients are not able to apply to those waitlists early, which would allow less wait time after into eligibility 


  • A lack of social connection and access pathways to community engagement has left many prematurely aging community members isolated, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic only exasperated that isolation 
  • People need to feel safe to access resources in their area, it’s challenging when people have to move outside of their current communities in order to find affordable or supportive housing, which increases isolation 

Cultural and Language Differences 

  • Many clients – especially immigrant and refugee populations – have cultural expectations around aging (ie. family support) that are different from the Canadian cultural context which puts pressure on family dynamics, and on workers who may be faced with language barriers and risks of breeching confidentiality when communicating to family members on behalf of clients  
  • Language barriers can prohibit clients from communicating their needs, from accessing appropriate medical services that could support access to services (ie: communicating medical experiences to physicians, workers, and others)  


  • Individuals with developmental disabilities age faster, and premature aging is not encapsulated within the services and financial supports available for people with disabilities  
  • People with developmental disabilities have shorter life expectancies, and systems were set up with this expectation, but people who are living longer than expected are falling through the cracks 

Transition Supports  

  • When circumstances change, often abruptly, there is no clear, easeful pathway to transition to different types of supports 
  • For example, when people with disabilities who have been living independently experiencing a medical crisis that results in a sudden need for supportive living are left in limbo: they can’t be discharged to their independent living situations, and a new process of resource identification, application, and wait lists must begin 

Strategies to Meet Challenges: 

Group Homes for Living and Aging Together  

  • New buildings designed with accessibility and B3 Care Standards enable aging in place, as they are specifically constructed to be able to add in door openers, lifts, and other things that may be needed as a person ages 
  • Apartment approach is easier to support aging in place than houses, as there are often physical accessibility considerations constructed into the buildings, and residents may have more access to a sense of community that could combat isolation 

Supportive Housing and My Access to Housing  

  • Supporting clients in their application for Supportive Housing and My Access to Housing is helpful, and ensuring clients understand how the priority waitlist operated so that there is clarity on the wait times 
  • Advocating for clients to be moved up the waitlist if they are exhibiting signs of progressive illness, in anticipation of them needing supportive housing after independent living 

Case Management 

  • Eliminating a time limit on case management for clients who are exhibiting early signs of aging, ensuring they have case managers through to end-of-life care 

Medical Support  

  • Including medical support to meet the added challenge of clients not trusting the medical system due to experiences of dismissal and judgement 
  • Referring clients to Community Health Centres to find medical treatment, which are quite knowledgeable and empathetic to early aging populations 
  • Accompanying clients to medical appointments to ensure their symptoms of early aging are being communicated and addressed 

Community Education and Outreach  

  • It would be helpful to collaboratively create a guideline for people who are experiencing early signs of aging so that they can understand their medical needs, create a plan for self-advocacy, and access the supports they can anticipate needing 
  • This guide should include information and education about different medical conditions that can arise with early aging, common treatments, and expectations for treatment and healing journeys 

Helpful Resources 

Community Resources and Referrals  

Resource Gaps 

Coalition or Alliance  

  • An association or central organization that focuses on this specific issue would be helpful, and organizations could work together to share experiences, lobby for changes, and create a stronger voice about the needs of this population 
  • A central organization could also provide literature and information in multiple languages about premature aging, targeted to the population itself 


  • Specialized training available for service providers that is dedicated to premature aging, including strategies for support, eligibility and programming, and advocacy  

Technical Support  

  • Access to devices, and skill development training for use 
  • Access to devices that are outside the home to support the needs of community members who are residing with abusers  
  • Supports for creating email addresses and learning how to update digital files  
  • Access to, and training on, scanners and file uploading requirements for My Access to Housing Toronto 

Resources within the Shelter System  

  • Training for staff dedicated to building trust and improving shelter staff and community member relationships, to push back on perceptions of being policed or over-regulated  
  • Resources within the shelter system for transitional housing options for prematurely aging populations  

System Change 


  • Pressure on the City to put in place more supportive housing and in-house services  
  • Education in the Medical Field about the impacts that the Social Determinants of Health have on aging, specifically  
  • More case managers and case planning with realistic expectations about the length of client-facing appointments
  • Computer and tech provision to accompany the My Access to Housing changes and system expectations 

Record Keeping and Data Sharing  

  • Centralized file keeping and updating to avoid the need to re-upload information to multiple channels  
  • Centralized computer stations through My Access to Housing, where service users can access their centrally kept files  

Education, Training, Guidance  

  • Guidance for workers on how to access necessary services faster, before medical conditions escalate  
  • Resources and training on how to address the question of premature aging  
  • Centralized information on resources and referral options 

Eligibility Re-Definition, “Senior” Redefined   

  • Better definition of “senior” is needed, based on development and health condition; this has been acknowledged in the National Seniors Strategy 
  • Leverage the re-definition of “Senior” from National Dementia Strategy  
  • Re-define eligibility requirements for government programs and supports around specific health conditions rather than age 
  • Open long-term care to health-based eligibility 
  • If age-based eligibility persists, allow early applications for people who are anticipating aging, to reduce wait times once eligible  

Funding Priorities  

  • Realistic, service-provider directed needs assessment from all funders  
  • Language and interpretation support, and free translation and interpretation from all government agencies, including My Access to Housing and Income Supports
  • Technology access funding to ensure access for clients to computers, internet, phones, data, etc.  
  • Transition supports for life changes that easefully shift someone from one type of programming/support to another, without having to re-apply or do a new application procedure  

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The State of the Eviction Ban

The current state of evictions and potential strategies for promoting housing stability after the most recent province-wide lockdown.

East York East Toronto Family Resources (EYET) hosted a Community Conversation on June 9th featuring the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) to gather housing professionals from across Toronto to learn more about the current state of evictions in the City of Toronto and discuss challenges and potential strategies for promoting housing stability after the most recent province-wide lockdown.

Breakout groups were offered space to share services available at their own agencies, to share concerns and identify community needs, and to consider skills and strategies that could support the work of maintaining housing for those impacted most by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The breakout rooms invited conversation around three prompts:  

  • Eviction Prevention: What have the impacts of Bill 184 been in the work of eviction prevention?  What strategies are you using to prevent evictions? Are you supporting the creation of rent arrears repayment plans? 
  • Eviction Support: How are you strategically preparing to support clients through the anticipated influx of evictions? How have you been supporting clients through online eviction hearings? 
  • Services and Referrals: What services and supports are you offering, or are you referring your clients to, to better support them in either keeping their housing, or preparing for evictions? 

The conversations highlighted some significant challenges that are shared by housing professionals and service users across the City of Toronto, shed some light on the unmet needs of service users in the current economic climate, and identified some strategies and resources that housing professionals have found helpful in the work of housing stability.  

Sector Needs and Identified Issues: 

Language support for clients:  

Participants identified the challenges that tenants who do not speak English as a first language face in fighting evictions and maintaining housing. 

Issues include: 

  • Rental agreements and leases are legal documents that need to be translated and there is limited capacity and budgets for agencies to translate/hire translation services 
  • Negotiations and mediation with landlords can require translation, and tenants with limited English language proficiency do not have access to translation support to ensure they are fully understanding the terms of the negotiation or mediation  
  • The Landlord Tenant Board does not offer translation services, and so tenants that must go to the LTB are forced to participate in complex legal proceedings that are conducted in English, limiting their capacity to fully access the proceedings and fully communicate their side  
  • The changes that Bill 184 have introduced has resulted in some arrear repayment negotiations being pushed by landlords, and some tenants would need those negotiations and the contracts translated, but resources for translation are limited  
  • There are limited grants, funds, and resources available for translation services within frontline service agencies or within social services systems  
  • Income supports programs and other systems of support (both governmental and nongovernmental) are provided and presented in English and (sometimes) French; translation services are uncommon  

Participants named the strategy of mobilizing internal resources such as staff and volunteers who have offered translation supports for tenants, and identified a need for more funding supports and advocacy for translation services to be offered by governmental bodies, including the LTB as a solution to this challenge.  

System Navigation for clients and housing professionals:  

Participants identified the challenge that both housing professionals as well as tenants face in navigating processes and procedures within social service systems.  

Issues include: 

  • Inconsistent and conflicting experiences when speaking with representatives from government programs such as ODSP and OW
  • A lack of clarity in standard practices in government programs 
  • The shift to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a decreased capacity for workers and tenants to connect with government agencies, which has increased risk of losing housing  
  • Increased requests for support in making applications to receive a subsidy, as a result of reduced employment and prolonged unemployment during the Covid-19 pandemic  
  • The shift to the Rent Café Portal has caused workers and tenants challenges in needing to learn to navigate a new system on top of an increased workload  
  • Access to Housing Centralized waitlist applications have increased, while the waitlist length has grown
  • People experiencing homelessness have named discomfort at the intrusive questions from Central Intake, which has been traumatizing for some people 
  • The shelter system remains overwhelmed, and people are staying homeless longer without shelter  
  • Tenants are reporting a lack of clarity around the eviction processes, and there is a lack of standardized resources to explain the process  
  • Social housing or RGI subsidies are challenging to navigate; HSF is less challenging, but require the knowledge of how to negotiate with TCH and OW/ODSP Caseworkers    

Participants identified a need for clarity in government program procedures and increased accessible and free training for both workers as well as tenants in system navigation.  

Financial Support and Budgeting: 

Participants identified a major challenge that financial management and budgeting have caused tenants, and the ongoing inadequacy of income support rates as related to the increasingly high market rental rates in Toronto.  

Issues include: 

  • Ensuring that clients are budgeting accordingly to plan for rent payments in the long term  
  • The need for increased knowledge and training around resources available to ODSP and OW recipients  
  • More information and free, accessible training on the Covid-19 supports, such as CERB; some tenants had identified the issue of being told they must repay their CERB without having planned for that cost  
  • A lack of clarity around the eviction ban has resulted in some tenants halting rent payment and now being faced with insurmountable arrears and unrealistic repayment plans  
  • Bill 184 has resulted in tenants that do not have adequate support negotiating unrealistic repayment plans and being evicted rapidly  
  • High market rental costs are forcing tenants to withhold rent because they have to choose between rent payment and essential goods like food, medicine, utilities, etc – some tenants would have to choose one or the other and had been alternating, building up arrears over time  
  • Lack of access to subsidies for the internet, especially as the internet has been crucial to employment since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic  
  • Budgeting for rent has been challenging and adding arrears repayment plans on top of rent payment is unrealistic for a lot of tenants, and they are at risk of losing their housing  
  • Many tenants relying on income supports receive monthly payments that are not enough to cover the high costs of rent in Toronto 

Participants named creative strategies to support client budgeting such as undertaking annual income reviews to adjust budgets, and negotiating for keeping rent as low as possible, even for tenants that are not on RGI. Participants aim to set tenants up with housing that is the lowest cost possible, and connect them to other subsidies like LEAP or resources like the food banks to make up their needs. Some participants have worked out a pre-payment plan with ODSP or OW to add an extra $50 or $100 to their rent so that arrears are received directly by sending the N4 to the ODSP or OW worker.   

Sector Strategies of Support:  

Collaborative partnerships for effective referrals:  

Participants noted a need for collaboration, connection, and partnership development across the sector to create pathways for support for tenants at risk of losing housing, or unable to secure housing.  

Opportunities for collaboration include:  

  • Advocacy to call for subsidies, increased income supports payments, funding for language services, and continued rent freezes  
  • Translation supports between housing support service agencies and newcomer support services, and advocating for language supports to be offered by the LTB 
  • Sharing background information when a client moves out of one catchment area into another  
  • Housing help centres and legal clinics for easeful referrals and support when facing an eviction notice  
  • Coordinated service provision 
  • Coordinated information about THAP and how to access  
  • Coordinated landlord/housing provider information
  • Referral sheets that can be shared across the sector, identifying services in different areas of the city  
  • Coordinated community mapping  
  • Connection to municipal standards group to build advocacy and support on the tenant side      

Proactive Planning & Early Intervention:  

Participants recognized the importance of early intervention and creating proactive plans for mitigating the risk of eviction for a tenant, upon intake.  

Some planning and intervention strategies include:  

  • Preparing a safety plan with clients regarding their options in the case of eviction, before an eviction notice is even served
  • In the case of a likely eviction, include a soft-landing strategy that sees clients preparing for accessing a shelter bed before the eviction takes place, in case there is a wait list, to ensure there is no gap between housing and shelter 
  • Applying for mediation to avoid a hearing and to avoid the sheriff
  • Setting up direct payment between income supports and landlord, or setting up a trust with the agency to pay rent and/or arrears on the behalf of a tenant who consents to do so  
  • Note: there is no pay direct option for tenants on a senior’s income; this is a gap, but they can set up PAP payment from their bank account instead 
  • Engage in a case management approach from the beginning of the relationship with the client to avoid getting to the place of eviction, where possible  
  • Walking tenants through CRA documents, Service Canada calls, and other systems for accessing financial resources 
  • Work towards a realistic repayment plan as soon as the arrears show up
  • Ask for tenants to bring all documentation required to receive a subsidy to the intake appointment: notice of assessment from last tax filing year; identification; indication of status in Canada; bank statements; etc. – this will help identify early on what could be missing, and build a tenant’s personal file for any potential applications, streamlining the process  
  • As a worker, triage clients based on date of eviction notice and severity of case to ensure high workload does not mean people are falling through the cracks

Tenant Education and Support: 

Participants named the education of tenants as a huge factor in preparing tenants for successful tenancies and maintaining housing. Gaps to knowledge around housing, rights and responsibilities, and system processes have led to high rates of evictions, and proactive education and support is the most effective eviction prevention tool.  

Some strategies for tenant education and support include: 

  • Education about rights as a tenant, including providing an information sheet upon tenancy, translated to their first language if possible, using clear and accessible language  
  • Educate tenants that they have a right to demand a standard lease – often tenants are evicted due to the lack of a formal lease, or verbal leases that are easier to be broken  
  • Providing FAQ sheets that detail some common misconceptions about tenant rights (ie: withholding rent due to maintenance issues; having to move out as soon as an eviction notice is served; the landlord can change your locks) 
  • Provide “common scenarios in tenancies” to inform tenants about what to avoid and what to watch for if their tenancy is at risk 
  • Provide tenants with viable options when they cannot make their rent (ie: paying something is better than paying nothing because showing effort will take them further in the case of an LTB hearing or mediation) 
  • When facing evictions, a detailed step-by-step overview of how the LTB process works so that clients can feel prepared and there are no surprises  
  • Bearing witness for clients to support their evidence collection in case of an LTB hearing 
  • Creating a promissory note, if possible, to give to a landlord to avoid eviction in the case of arrears  
  • Engaging in skill building with tenants around talking to landlords and assertive communication, including role playing a conversation with landlord 
  • Provide technology on-site, if possible, so that clients can attend LTB virtual hearings if they do not have access to the internet or a computer  
  • Provide a “virtual hub” accessible to clients where they can access computers to attend hearings, print/sign leases, print/sign documents required 
  • Ensure tenants understand the reality of market rent, especially tenants who have been in the same unit for several years and are now at risk of eviction 

Landlord Engagement and Mediation:  

Proactive relationship building between tenants, their landlords, and housing professionals can contribute to housing stability in case of situations where eviction is a risk. Ensuring that landlords know that the tenant is supported can help  

Some strategies for engaging with landlord and undertaking mediation include: 

  • Ensuring that landlords know the tenant is supported by making direct connections to mitigate the risk of a tenant being unfairly treated  
  • Bear witness for tenants who are experiencing challenges with their landlord or their unit to make sure landlords and property managers are following the rules  
  • Offer evidence collection support, like photos, email drafting, 311 reporting, in the case of substandard maintenance  
  • Offer mediation services, where possible, or refer to mediation services between the tenant and the landlord to reach an agreement and negotiate arrears repayment  
  • Educate landlords about tenant rights, income supports, and resources accessible to tenants who are at risk of eviction, advocating for more time before an eviction notice is served  
  • Work with Rent Bank or HSF to find funds to make payments in good faith if rent can’t be made or arrears repayment plans are extensively long  
  • Ensure that any rental agreement is understood by the tenant, and offer translation services or plain-language versions of an agreement, where needed  
  • Mitigate the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in the case of repayment plans by letting both landlords and tenants know that you will support arrears repayment plans to avoid the landlord offering a plan that is unrealistic, and the tenant feeling pushed to sign and set up for failure  
  • Encourage tenants to get to know their neighbours in the building and connect around shared experiences, developing community in a shared building can support tenant rights, and connect them to a tenant organizing organization like the Federation of Metro Tenants Association for support

Helpful Resources:   

Participants shared the most helpful resources, programs, services, and supports that their clients have accessed in maintaining housing stability after the lifting of the eviction moratorium in Ontario.  

Resource Description  
Toronto Rent Bank Interest-free loans for people facing arrears or other emergency housing costs. Currently operating a grant program offering non-repayable supports to anyone who lives in Toronto, pays market rent in an RTA-covered unit, is low-income but not on OW or ODSP, and meets other requirements.  
Furniture Bank  Social enterprise redistributing gently-used furniture and housewares to community members in need.  
Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) Financial support for emergency housing needs for people who are recipients of OW or ODSP in Toronto. 
Neighbourhood Information Post Housing Trusteeship Program Provides short-term assistance to stabilize housing for eligible community members in Downtown Toronto and Scarborough 
St. Stephen’s Community House Trustee Program Provides money management assistance to facilitate an improved, independent lifestyle for community members with a history of substance use and homelessness, through a stated Harm Reduction lens.  
Trusteeship and Pay Direct, Ontario Works  Information on how to establish a Trusteeship, and access to the Appointment of Trustee form.  
Legal Aid Ontario: Find a Legal Clinic Tool to identify catchment area based on postal code for legal clinics in Ontario. 
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) Grant program for folks struggling to pay past due energy bills.  
Toronto Subsidized Housing List  List of units and properties that include RGI eligibility and the Commercial Rent Supplement Program.  
Rent Geared to Income Subsidy Subsidy from the City of Toronto to make rent affordable, relative to someone’s income rather than market rent value.  
Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation: Tenant Rights Resources for tenant education on rights and obligations.  
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) Legal advice, tip sheets, resources, and advocacy around tenant rights in Ontario 
Duty Counsel Offices Ontario  Free legal advice for people who cannot afford a lawyer or do not have representation  
Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC)  City-provided wrap around eviction prevention services, from Shelter, Support, and Housing Administration (SSHA) EPIC only accepts referrals from specific partner agencies Learn more about the EPIC program in their Pilot Program Evaluation from 2018 here.  
Shelter and Supportive Housing  Division of the City that oversees social housing, centralized waitlist, emergency shelters and supports, street outreach, and housing stability services.  
Evelyn Massey Centre for Women Baby and Me program supporting 15–25-year-old people who are pregnant or parenting to get a rental subsidy, as well as tenant rights information for young mothers  Residential program for young mothers 13 years or older during post or pre-natal 
The Neighbourhood Group Does referrals to EPIC  
ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency (ENAGB-IYA) Indigenous agency serving youth 12-29 years old with cultural, employment, life skills, holistic wellness, and recreational opportunities.  
City of Toronto Homeless Help Directory  List of active supports available for people experiencing homelessness in Toronto, including shelter diversion program  
City of Toronto Benefit Finder A tool to help identify benefits that you may be eligible for if you live in Toronto  
West Toronto Housing Help Services Housed within West Toronto Community Legal Services, this housing help centre is a unique program situated within one of the 17 legal clinics in the city.  
Streets to Homes City funded program helping people transition from living on the street into permanent housing.  Assists with follow up workers for a year after being housed to ensure rent payments, mediation, and other supports.  
Access Point Toronto  Centralized point of access to apply for mental health support, addictions support, and supportive housing.  
Federation of Metro Tenants Association (FMTA) Resources, information, templates, and supports for collaborative organizing and forming tenant associations in multi-unit dwellings. 
Ve’ahavta Community agency with case managers offering one-on-one sessions with clients who participate in their training programs. Programs include Essential Skills Training, Expressive Arts, Relief and Referral, and Paid Work Training Placement program.  
Indigenous Supportive Housing Program (ISHP) Program from Anishnawbe Health that offers monthly rental subsidies, when available, to make housing affordable for community members with mental health and/or addictions issues, support in accessing other subsidies, and other eviction prevention services.  
Aboriginal Housing Support Centre Project developed by Wigwamen Incorporated that supports Indigenous people meet their housing needs.  
Native Women Portal  Housing Outreach Program provides services for housing stabilization for Indigenous women and girls.  
North Toronto Support Services  Mental Health and Justice Initiative provides housing support for folks currently or at-risk of homelessness who are involved in the criminal punishment system.  

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Supporting Clients through Winter and COVID-19

Supporting Clients through Winter and COVID-19

On February 9th and 11th, 2021, housing professionals from across Toronto gathered in a series of Community Conversations to collectively discuss the needs of clients facing housing precarity/inadequacy, the challenges faced in the housing sector during a COVID-19 winter, and the resources available for supporting clients through winter months.  

Together, housing professionals shared services available at their own agencies, discussed shifts and changes to service provision, and identified strategies and approaches to facing the challenges of this winter. By identifying the needs of clients and the gaps that exist in services that meet those needs, participants engaged in an effort to share strategies and ideas for support.  

The conversations identified the consistent and ongoing needs that communities faced with housing precarity/inadequacy or experiencing homelessness share. Participants identified that folks without housing security were in particular need of:  

  • Housing Help Services  
  • Financial Supports  
  • Food provision, including free or low-cost hot meals and hot beverages 
  • Access to bathrooms with hot water 
  • Access to showers  
  • Access to internet and the devices required to connect online  
  • Access to telephone services  
  • Transportation access, including transit tokens, rides, and pre-paid presto passes  
  • Shelter beds  
  • Mental health supports  
  • Warm clothing, socks, blankets  
  • Clean water  
  • More warming locations for extreme cold weather  
  • More supports for encampments, and reduced policing in encampments  
  • Readily available harm reduction supplies  

Participants discussed the challenges that are shared across the sector by folks accessing services, and by service providers themselves. The most common challenges identified were:  

  • Self-care and secondary trauma for service providers  
    • Service providers are stretched thin and it is challenging to prioritize their own mental health and well-being.  
    • Service providers are simultaneously experiencing the collective trauma of this pandemic and feeling called to increase supports offered, to the detriment of their own mental health.  
  • Discrimination and stigmatization 
    • Private market landlords still uphold discriminatory practices housing folks who are marginalized. 
    • Some housed residents in areas where temporary shelter have been created either by the City (in the case of Roehampton) or by the community itself (in the case of encampments) have made complaints that have resulted in dislocation by unhoused residents.  
  • Housing market remains unaffordable   
    • People are struggling to find housing, or struggling to maintain the housing they have found. Employment losses and limited access to viable employment, combined with limitations of income supports, have made evictions consistent and threatening to housing stability for many community members.  
  • Tech accessibility  
    • Access to devices is necessary for surviving a COVID-19 winter, but cost is a barrier to obtaining devices for those in need, and a barrier for providing devices for service providers. Increased funding to provide organizations with devices to give to service users is needed.  
    • Many services are offered online, and the internet remains an expensive and private offering. Locations with wifi access (like libraries, Tim Horton’s, McDonalds, etc) are closed, so communities have no way of accessing the internet  
  • Mental Health  
    • Critical mental health issues persist, but free mental health services remain limited, and some services remain closed due to the pandemic (some detox centers and drop-in mental health supports) 
    • Online resources are available, but rely on access to tech and internet, which many unhoused or precariously/inadequately housed community members do not have  
  • Physical health  
    • Many clients do not have a regular physician for maintaining physical health, and can only access emergency services. Many clinics are limiting appointments to emergencies.  
  • Shelter capacity and safety  
    • There are not enough beds in the shelter system to provide safe indoor spaces to unhoused residents of Toronto.  
    • Shelters are difficult to social distance in, and COVID outbreaks in the shelter system cause uncertainty and risk. Many community members would prefer to live in encampments where they are able to have isolated, socially distanced, and private dwellings in tents or temporary structures.  
    • Shelters and hotel beds have had restrictions that have proved challenging for service users, and many unhoused people with pets have reported challenges and issues with keeping their pets, preferring encampment residency.  
  • Encampment supports are limited, and encampments remain a violation of city bylaws 
    • Limited indoor spaces are consistently full, access to indoor spaces (libraries; Tim Horton’s; McDonalds) is closed; face-to-face supports is high risk and so reduced; encampments continue to be cleared.  
  • Service reduction 
    • Drop-ins are limited to unhoused service users, creating a gap in access for folks who are housed but rely on drop-in services for meals, socializing, and computer/tech access.  
    • Face-to-face services are reduced, limiting ability of service providers to build rapport and trust with service users.  
    • Food provision services saw an increased level of donations at the beginning of the pandemic, but the donations have tapered and it is challenging to continue to provide hot meals during the winter months  
  • Volunteer support decreased 
    • With COVID restrictions and ongoing emergency measures, programs that have relied on volunteer supports have not been able to keep up with demand due to capacity constraints of the lack of volunteers.  
  • Warming locations are limited  
    • There are only four warming locations in the city  
    • There is transportation between the warming centres, but there are no other pickup locations for residents seeking warming spot during extreme cold weather  

The participants also shared expert insight into some strategies that could be helpful for community members experiencing homelessness, or who are inadequately housed:  

  • Government supports and government relations  
  • The province, City, and federal governments need to work more closely together to ensure affordable housing options.  
  • More coops need to be built by the Federal Government. 
  • The City could rent condos where vacancy rates have risen during the pandemic. 
  • Income supports are not enough, and now some clients are facing punitive measures against accessing CERB while on social supports  
  • Supports are offered online, but there is not enough effort to provide the tech required to access them. 

Identified Services and Supports: 

Organization Services and Opportunities for Supports  
Hope + Me  
  • Peer support group for frontline workers that meets every 2nd Friday at 1pm  
Scarborough Housing Stabilization Planning Network (SHSPN) 
  • Partnerships in the Scarborough area 
  • Furniture  
  • Food bank for clients  
  • Winter clothing  
  • Early On program  
Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities  
  • 2-week supply of food (with Halal option) for folks who are COVID positive and living in the Scarborough area  
  • Community Outreach COVID-19 Health Equity Project 
  • Cooked meals, with vegetarian options 
  • Pop-up COVID testing in Scarborough
Street Health at Dundas and Sherbourne 
  • Updated food bank locations  
  • Drop-in nursing services twice a week  
  • Nurse practitioners on site  
  • ID Clinics  
  • Overdose prevention site  
Inner City Health Associates  
  • Nursing support in downtown encampments (from Carlaw to Dufferin)  
  • Outreach and direct support, with a physician  
  • Support in shelters  
  • Some COVID recovery sites 


  • Outreach van providing hot meals, essential clothing and hygiene supplies 
  • Partnerships with health support services and shelters  
  • Meal box program (currently on hold)  
  • The Ve’ahavta Skills Academy (VSA), a free nine-week intensive digital program that provides training and support in the areas of essential skills and career exploration, in partnership with George Brown College. 
  • The Building Foundations for Women (BFW) program, is a free nine-week intensive digital program that provides training and support for women facing socio-economic, immigration, and/or mental health challenges. 
Furniture Bank 
  • Phone ahead of time 
  • Home deliveries will resume by July 6th 
  • Accepting corporate donations only at this time 
  • May offer virtual tours in future 
 Still doing some deliveries 
  • Can’t go and look at furniture 
  • No option for pick-up 
  • Flat rate for delivery of furniture 
Alternative options: 
  • Habitat for Humanity has furniture on website 
  • YWCA 
  • For Women, interest free loans for furniture when moving into a new place 
Toronto Public Libraries 
  • Internet connectivity kits provides vital connections for by equipping people with a free laptop and WiFi hotspot with four months of unlimited data. Participants will keep the laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot at the end of the program.  
  • When open, access to bathrooms and washrooms, and provision of referrals to community services  
  • Provides compilatory presto pass card (unfilled) 
  • Digital access library card to get immediate access to Toronto Public Library’s digital resources and services.  
  • Digital programs and classes, available online  
  • 9 TPL food banks  
  • WIFI on wheels: TPL bus travelled around to Northwest areas to provide free WIFI as a pilot in the summer, may continue  
  • TPL care kits: – folks picking up their collections can ask for a personal care kit (soap, shampoo, hygiene products) 
  • Senior tech help – for vulnerable seniors who are isolated to help them learn to use tech for connection 
Frontier College  
  • Strengths-based literacy programs that provide financial literacy, tech literacy, and basic skills  
  • Tech literacy is available, but dependent on participants owning their own devices  
Native Child and Family Services 
  • Rent Smart certified staff providing training on housing skills and tenant rights, and coaching on meeting with landlords and going to viewings  
  • Shelters for Indigenous men and woman call 416-969-8510. 
  • Youth location to help Indigenous Youth to find housing, by appointment only 
  • Food Hamper Services (once per week) for Indigenous youth and families. Call 416-969-8510. 
  • Mental Health Services 
  • Holistic referrals to Mental Health Services for youth. Or they can refer to Anishnawbe Health Toronto. 
  • Art Program for Indigenous people involved. They will deliver art supplies and support the client to participate online. 
Stella’s Place  
  • Mental health services and programming for youth age 16-29 
  • Drop-in virtual counselling on Thursdays from 3-6pm 
Toronto Drop-In Network 
Bounce Back Ontario  
  • Free skill-building program managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) designed to help people aged 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry, delivered over the phone with a coach and through online videos. 
Chalmers Bot Requires a computer. Provides regularly updated services available near you through map, including:  
  • Emergency shelter 
  • Food  
  • Clothing depots 
  • Drop-ins open 
Mind Beacon  
  • Free mental health support for Ontario residents dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. 
Native Women’s Resource Centre Offering: 
  • Online Counselling 
  • Support Line 
  • Support Email 8AM-12AM 
Good Sheppard Ministry 
  • Foodline outside, 24/7 
  • Emergency clothing  
  • Emergency shelter/hotel location  
  • Pre- and Post- drug treatment program (recovery program)  
Madison Community Services  
  • Food Security Program delivers fresh food boxes, prepared meals and groceries to clients who have physical disabilities or other barriers to shopping.  
  • Purchased cell phones for clients who did not have phones to connect with their case managers and laptops for clients who are at high risk and require a higher level of contact through video case management sessions. 
  • Social-recreation workshops to our clients by video such as yoga, dance, and cooking sessions. 
  • The Pathways To Home Program, designed to address the critical lack of 24/7 intensive on-site high support housing for long-term users of the shelter system who have complex mental health and/or developmental disabilities as well as physical health challenges. 
Red Door Shelter  
  • Winter survival kits  
  • Moving support program  
  • Food Bank 
Rogers  Connected for Success Program:  
  • Partnership Agreement for Low-cost internet access available to clients of partners.  
Telus Social Impact Program  
  • Internet for Good program offering high speed broadband internet to qualified low-income families for only $9.95 per month. 
  • Tech for Good offers people with disabilities customized technology solutions to help them live more independently.  
  • Health for Good enables TELUS mobile health clinics to bring primary healthcare directly to people in need who are unhoused. 
RC Tech Outreach 
  • The RCTech OUTREACH program and the Computers for Schools+ program provide qualifying students, individuals and families with affordable renewed computers, ready to use software and learning modules all in one package.  
  • Nonprofits that provide services to students, individuals, and families may qualify to participate in their program to help clients access affordable technology, by becoming a program partner. 
Free Geek Toronto 
  • A technology reuse social enterprise that works with partners to provide low-cost computers to increase digital inclusion in Toronto. 
  • Accepts donations of old laptops which they refurbish for their program partners.  
  • Providing virtual OW Caseworkers through WebEx in shelters for people without phones  
  • OW is not currently requesting documentation for folks with no fixed addresses  
  • MDOT Team (to discuss a potential referral, please call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766 or the M-DOT office at 647-777-0130). They can often find rooms for people who are homeless. If there is a homeless client, they will go out to the client. 
  • Housing Stabilization Fund has increased to allow clients up to $1,600 in one year, so they can acquire it twice per year. 
  • The City of Toronto is partnering with community agencies to connect residents to resources, services, programs, and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Preparing for Reopening: A Conversation for Managers and Administrators

Preparing for Reopening: A Conversation for Managers and Administrators 

Successful reopening requires the leadership of Managers, Human Resources Administrators, and Executive Directors. On May 21 and 22 2020, EYET hosted and facilitated a conversation that brought over 75 leaders and decision-makers from across the housing sector together to discuss preparing organizations and teams to reopen doors to clients and community in the wake of the Covid-19 quarantine restrictions.  

The conversations were guided through three themes:  

  • Physical Spaces 
  • How must we shift our physical spaces to adhere to social distancing rules?   What are the safety measures needed, and how will they be supported and communicated?   
  • Client Services 
  • What do client services look like? How must we prepare for this new interface? How are we prioritizing client safety as policy? How are we communicating that to staff and clients?  
  • Managing Remote Teams 
  • How do we continue to support workers working remotely?  
  • Tools that can support remote work:  
    • Trello – a tool for tracking work  
    • Asana – a tool for tracking project-based work  
    • Microsoft Teams – tool for collaborative working that is integrated with Outlook  
    • Slack – digital communication platform for remote teams   
    • Zoom – video conferencing program  
    • GoToMeeting – alternate video conferencing platform 
    • Cisco Webex – alternate video conferencing platform 

As leadership strategizes ways shift their organizations to prioritize safety in reopening, staff need to know that there are structures in place to ensure their safety. Policies and procedures need to be created and communicated clearly, and staff need to be trained on any changes.  

Physical Spaces 

How must we shift our physical spaces to adhere to social distancing rules?   What are the safety measures needed, and how will they be supported and communicated?   

During our community conversations with Housing Professionals across the sector, we heard a lot of feedback and concerns about returning to the office. Some of those concerns include: 

  • Small office and/or client meeting spaces making it difficult to practice social distancing  
  • High volume of traffic in office spaces lead to increased risks  
  • Office computers are not always set up with needed technology for digital connection (cameras, headsets)  
  • Office spaces/desks are close making privacy a challenge for digital meetings with clients 

Leadership-identified challenges and strategies: 

Shared Workspace:  
Many front-line staff share spaces or use the same computer/equipment 
  • Divide staff into teams and alternate their in-office time  
  • Allow all admin/reporting to be done at home on ‘work-from-home’ days or weeks 
  • Implement policy for deep sanitation of all equipment by staff at the end of use.  
  • Limit capacity in supply rooms, bathrooms, and other rooms where things are stored; display supplies list for convenience 
Safety for direct service provision:  
Frontline essential services (i.e.: drop-ins) must continue, high risk activities that includes prolonged close contact  
  • Secure full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): face shields, masks, goggles, gowns 
  • Provide PPE to staff and clients 
  • Sanitation station upon entry to building (hand sanitizer)  
  • Consider screening and having in-house testing  
  • Active screening of visitors/clients can include: taking temperature and asking questions to identify potential exposure or risks, identifying symptoms 
Acquiring PPE:  
Can be expensive; unexpected expense, not budgeted for  
  • Advocate for the city to provide PPE to agencies for at least one full year  
  • Advocate city to provide in-person assessments for IPAC advice  
  • Negotiate with funders and the city – it should not be up to agencies to offer that themselves; the city must provide these for at least a year if not longer 
  • Advocate for in-person assessments for IPAC advice; physical things can be done, and reasonably well, but it’s a matter of funding it  
Lobby / intake crowding: Intake spaces are modelled in ways where congregation happens  
  • Consider remodeling to reduce congestion 
  • Remove waiting area or significantly reduce capacity 
  • Add clear markers on ground for lines, including outside 
  • Clearly mark capacity on the door, redeploy staff to monitor at the door  
  • Install plexiglass Safe Guards at intake desks (consider moveable Safe Guards to maximize utility 
Noncompliance with Social Distancing:  
Staff or clients may not comply fully with the social distancing guidelines in place.
  • Make social distancing a policy; have regular safety check-ins about it to reinforce  
  • Make client services by appointment to ensure control over space where client interaction occurs  
  • Clearly mark spaces with appropriate distance, including meeting space, working desks, hallways 
Maintaining staffing levels:  
Some staff may be physically compromised and unable to work; pay not competitive enough, staff retention challenging. 
  • Reallocate labour to keep staff employed  
  • Advocate for increased funding and re-structured work plans  
  • Leadership may have to take on new workload to complete work employed staff are unable to do  
High traffic offices may have increased risks of contamination. 
  • Ensure well stocked on supplies (disinfectant; disposable wipes; alcohol-based hand sanitizer; touchless garbage cans) 
  • Create and post a regular cleaning schedule in the office  
  • Staff rotate to sign up for a disinfecting shift every 2 hours  
  • Use laminated paper/whiteboard for a cleaning checklist to ensure all surfaces are disinfected at least 4 times a day 
  • Hire a deep cleaning company to disinfect office fully between rotations of staff teams  
  • Post signage on how to keep clean and sanitized  
Staff may contract COVID:  
There is high risk to frontline service delivery, and staff may contract Covid-19 and be unable to work, or spread it to other. 
  • Revise sick days policy to be flexible to accommodate unique circumstance of pandemic  
  • Use SSHA guidelines to screen staff daily upon coming to work  
  • Offer support in monitoring symptoms before and after work, allowing remote work if any symptoms are present at all  
  • Consider policy to reimburse Transporation costs to encourage staff to avoid TTC  
Policy and Guidelines:  
New or revised policies are needed related to COVID-19 
  • Revise existing policies to make amendments to include information from policies put out from Toronto Public Health and other governmental guidelines  
  • Revise illness policies, including return to work post COVID illness    
  • PPE (ex: when to wear masks; wearing gloves to touch communal equipment) 
  • Screening  
  • Remote Work  
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting  
  • Transportation to reduce TTC use  
  • Client prioritization and triage guidelines to prioritize essential services  
  • When Covid-19 is suspected or confirmed 
Rearranging and Reducing Furniture: Furniture currently in the office needs to be removed to make space for social distancing.  
  • Rent a storage unit to move furniture into  
  • Consider partnering with a community partner who is in the same situation  
Signage: Clear communication of all guidelines, policies, and safety measures in the office spaces is extremely important.  
  • Passive Screening Signage: prompting visitors to self-identify if they have symptoms of Covid-19 
  • Active Screening information: if there is someone screening visitors, signage at entrances outlining procedures  
  • Reminders to perform hygiene (hand washing)  
  • Physical Distancing reminders  
  • Reminders to use PPE, with instructions  
Funding and Costs: Implementing measures needed to address safety concerns is costly. 
  • Ministry allows shifting of agency funds if related to safety  
  • Combine advocacy efforts to secure funding for safety needs (like the provision of PPE)

Client Services  

What do client services look like? How must we prepare for this new interface? How are we prioritizing client safety as policy? How are we communicating that to staff and clients?  

During our community conversations with Housing Professionals across the sector, we heard a lot of feedback and concerns about returning to the office. Some of those concerns include: 

Examples (Staff have identified): 

  • Unable to hold in-person workshops and programs for clients 
  • Clients feeling social isolation and unable to connect  
  • Accessing food services  
  • New move ins require furniture but moving is a challenge 
  • Shared living spaces may be unsafe for clients and workers  
  • Outreach and client intake 
  • Supporting clients to viewings 
  • Home visits 
  • Regular office hours have not consistently met shifting needs of clients 

Leadership-identified challenges and strategies: 

Challenge/Problem  Strategy/Solution 
Program Risk Differentiation: Not all programs pose the same risk or need.  
  • Undertake risk assessment for each program offering to prioritize bringing programming back  
  • Incorporate impact to the risk assessment to balance risk- with impact/need  
  • Determine a rollout of program returning on a basis of low-risk/high-impact metrics  
Groups and Programming:  
Clients need to return to programming and groups as soon as possible.  
  • Reduce capacity for groups 
  • Reduce program length  
  • Increase frequency of programming  
  • Shift staffing schedules to accommodate offerings  
  • Consider hiring security or using Volunteers as security to monitor capacity  
Risks to client one-on-one meetings:  
How to ensure social distancing while sitting in the same room as a client. 
  • Switch to appointment-based meetings only 
  • Screen clients upon entry  
  • Re-purpose office space to make client meeting rooms larger 
  • Install barriers between client and worker (ie: plexiglass) 
  • Secure virtual platforms like Ontario Telehealth Network that Doctors use or ZOOM platform 
    • Ensure compliance with privacy legislation, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) 
Supporting non-essential services:  
Clients still need information but non-essential programming is limited. 
  • Provide a resource centre for clients with information packets to grab  
  • Space public computer stations 
  • Computer time limitations, sign-up basis  
Application Support:  
Clients need help with applications, challenging to do socially distanced.  
  • Shift to a ‘drop-off’ service with respect to applications 
  • Install a box for clients to drop off forms to minimize number of clients coming in to the office  
  • Use DocuSign – software that allows clients to click a button to sign an application instead of having in-person  
Prolonged contact unavoidable:  
Orgs that offer spaces to sleep or food services cannot mitigate risks of prolonged contact.  
  • Prioritize space as risk mitigation 
  • Move cots apart  
  • Limit people at a dining table by closing or removing chairs  
  • Clearly mark distanced spots for sitting, socializing, smoking, etc 
Client noncompliance with PPE guidelines and policies: 
Especially for clients with mental health issues, or clients who struggle adapting to new/changing environments.  
  • Provide education and training on protocols  
  • Provide PPE for clients  
  • Post information in multiple languages, formats (ie: visuals and pictures as well as words) 
Other Organizations Changing Services:  
Staff struggle to keep up with service changes for referrals.  
  • Coordinate with partners to update changing services 
  • TDIN is currently updating service changes for all Drop-Ins  
Clients not self-screening: 
Clients unaware of self-screening strategies and not screening prior to accessing services. 
  • Implement screening on-site prior to entry  
  • Form for staff and clients to complete at check-in asking about where they have been, if they’ve been in contact with COVID-19 infected person, if they have symptoms  
  • Install intercom systems for screening to occur before clients enter building
Tech Limitations: Clients don’t have access to the tech needed for remote support.  
  • Shift drop-in to appointment based  
  • Organize tech literacy training to facilitate clients shifting to digital support models  
  • Set up virtual meeting room with computer with tech set up so that clients can access workers remotely, and the workers can provide meetings to clients from home  
  • Toronto Public Library lends out hotspots  

Management of teams: Organizational changes and working remotely 

How do we continue to support workers working remotely? What considerations must leadership and management have to adapt to managing teams in new structures.  

Examples (Staff have identified): 

  • Disconnect between staff and teams working remotely  
  • Workload changes and feeling unsure of new shifts  
  • Recent technologies and software are overwhelming  
  • Staff don’t have access to hardware at home (printing, scanning, copying, stamps)  
  • Staff need reliable high-speed internet for working from home  
  • Staff who parent find it challenging to balance childcare with consistent work hours  
  • Work/home life lines are blurred while working from home, challenging to set up boundaries  

Leadership-identified challenges and strategies: 

Challenge/Problem  Strategy/Solution 
Strategy: COVID-19 requires adaptations and workplan strategies that are temporary and unpredictable. 
  • Create a COVID-19 Strategic Plan that covers: Minimum staffing needs; critical and essential services; policy development functional limitations and barriers; work from home plan 
  • Begin near-future planning and recovery planning; draft frameworks for planning beyond reopening: one year, three years. 
Remote work impossible for some positions: Some front-line service delivery needs to be in person. 
  • Reconsider expectations and redefine service delivery 
  • Provide meeting rooms for clients to meet with worker who works remotely by providing tech, so worker can deliver services from home   
  • Set up an inexpensive voicemail service that clients can leave messages to for workers to get a hold of them  
Team building: Teams feel disconnected and isolated in their work  
  • Prioritize regular meetings and check-ins 
  • Create self-care check-ins for the team to ensure collective care is considered 
  • Provide space for socializing – organize lunches, social meetings  
  • Provide prompts for a ‘fun’ check-in at the start of each week  
Productivity and Outputs: Working from home may limit productivity; there is only so much work that can be done from home. 
  • Identify what productivity looks like to staff working remotely vs in-person, strategize ways to replicate productive environments for staff 
  • Survey staff about reimagining work in this context: what to stop/start/keep, what is realistic  
  • Survey clients and volunteers about capacity and need in order to adjust expectations 
  • Review workplans and deliverables, adjust  
  • Recognizing challenges to work/life balance and childcare, offer option of flexible hours to accommodate life, focused on deliverable and not hours “in the office”  
Adhering to collective agreements; undertaking union bargaining: Adhering to collective bargaining agreements is challenging with this shift in staffing structures; consistency is unattainable across many staff departments  
  • Prioritize building a relationship with the unions and consider Covid-19 response and bargaining  
  • Find ways to redeploy staff or reassign work to ensure consistent and equitable workloads for people working from home  
  • Establish a Pandemic committee: a joint union-management committee to problem-solve collaboratively  
Grants and Funder Expectations: Funding allocation has been provided for outputs that are no longer realistic; those funds could be used to implement new and shifting services, program, and projects. 
  • Build and strengthen relationships with funders  
  • Contact funders to renegotiate terms and deliverables, negotiate re-allocation of funds o adjusted programs and services  
  • Re-define productivity and output to prioritize IMPACT in the COVID context  
  • Collaborate with staff providing services to identify new, realistic deliverables and advocate for expectations informed by staff capacity 
Remote work has tech challenges: Staff do not have access to the tech required to provide services remotely, or to do remote work  
  • Provide computer, phone, phone number, headset, camera 
  • Provide a budget for highest speed internet and to pay phone bill  
  • Compensate for supplies for printing or provide account at printshop closest to employee’s home, or one that delivers  
  • Provide training on chosen software and communication tools for remote work  
  • Free Geek Toronto has refurbished tech at inexpensive rates  
Immediate solutions don’t work long-term:  
The quick adaptations to working from home don’t feel sustainable 
  • Evaluate quarantine: Review and survey on the tech and software used during quarantine to work from home  
  • Identify long-term solutions (software, systems management, training) for working from home  
  • Set up sufficient training, provide resources for staff to learn  
  • Ask staff for input in planning work from home strategy, and offer them to demo and train coworkers on what works (learn from one another)  
  • Identify a mentorship model for those comfortable working from home and those uncomfortable – pair people in a buddy system to troubleshoot and learn together  
Compassion Fatigue and Mental Health: Burnout seems to be increasing as boundaries are thinning.  
  • Create an Action Plan for compassion fatigue 
  • Cultivate a community of care in the workplace 
  • Prioritize providing professional development around self-care, burnout, collective care, compassion fatigue, secondary trauma  

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Eviction Prevention Amid COVID-19

On July 22nd 2020, housing professionals from across Toronto gathered in a series of Community Conversations to collectively discuss the impact of COVID-19 on eviction prevention work, and to share skills and strategies for preventing, planning for, and support clients through evictions once the emergency eviction ban is lifted in Toronto. 

Together, housing professionals shared ideas on how to engage with landlords, how to prevent evictions, how to help clients prepare for evictions, and how to prepare for potentially high eviction notices from clients. This document provides some compiles resources to support eviction prevention planning and preparation, and the notes from the conversation breakout rooms.  

For comments, feedback, or questions, please contact Savhanna Wilson,  

Eviction Prevention Resources 

Conversations produced notes in the following areas: 

  • How are you currently engaging with landlords and clients to prevent evictions? 
  • How are you currently helping clients prepare for evictions? 
  • How are you preparing for potentially high eviction notices from clients once the emergency ban is lifted? 

Preventing Eviction: 

  • Undertake proactive Eviction Risk Assessments with all clients, and continue to check in frequently. Create a template that could include gathering: 
    • Date of rent payment; last date of payment; amount owing; if they have enough money to pay rent; if they need financial supports or access to Rent Bank  
    • Relationship between client and their landlord (do they get along? Is the landlord responsive? How do they communicate, and how frequently?)  
    • Budget check-in, including income/outgoing expenses, how funds or financial supports are received (direct deposit? Direct to landlord? Cheque? Etc)  
  • Show up and build relationships directly with landlords: some landlords who have been pushing tenants out have shifted away from evictions when advocates step in 
  • Educate landlords: many small landlords don’t have full information about landlord/tenant rights, cost of evictions, etc.  
    • Landlords do not require a license or education to be able to rent out their place; encourage them to take Rent Smart courses, potentially get a Rent Smart certified staff member at your organization 
    • Focus on cost: landlords evicting will not only lose the income from arrears but also cost additional money – appeal to that  
  • Check with client about direct payment from ODSP or OW; support client in making that decision and communicate that to landlords 
  • Try to be proactive and mediating between them and landlord from the beginning to come up with payment plan that they are both comfortable with  
    • Meet with client one-on-one to empower them to see if they’re able to have the conversation with the landlord, and build their communication skills  
    • Role play with them about what they could say to their landlord  
    • Step in to mediate if they are too uncomfortable, or reach out to mediation services like St. Stephen’s  
    • Addressing emotion and knowing when to walk away and come back to a conversation 
  • For those struggling with rental payment, work on budgeting and looking at how to compensate the amount they need to repay – what areas in their budget can they pull from to make ends meet and repay  
  • Education – people feel disempowered and not familiar with legalities and rights and responsibilities, etc; housing professionals can refer to services, legal clinics, etc to help clients become educated and informed  
  • If non-payment has occurred, engage with Eviction prevention programs 
    • Call city 311 
    • Mediation – St. Stephen’s!  
  • Community legal clinics have been great and supportive; have helped review Ontario standard leases; are a great partnership to build into the work 
    • Support clients to prepare any paperwork or information that they might need ahead of a legal consult 
  • Get consent from your client to talk to the landlord, and provide landlord with direct contact information; collaborate with other staff or management and landlord to come up with the solution (open communication) 
  • Rent bank referrals 
  • Mediate and negotiate payment plans 
  • Some housed OW/ODSP recipients have collected one or more CERB cheques (more than they were entitled to), and must pay back the money before December 31st 2020 or they risk fraudulent activity charges. Concerns and uncertainty around if they can lose benefits (ie child tax benefits or GST, or OW/ODSP) if they can’t pay it back, which would result in losing housing  
  • Providing landlords with PPE has generated positive responses and been deemed helpful to them. They feel more secure, and safety is important to them. 
  • Rent Bank – a lot of folks going into arrears don’t know about Rent Bank, so a referral to them will help  
    • Rent bank has made amendments for covid19 
  • Discuss with clients a strategy to maintain housing (ex: pay rent first and refer to other supports for food access, etc.) 

Preparing for Evictions:  

  • Contacting landlords in the catchment area about the Eviction Prevention Program (EPIC) and asking if they have tenants with a lot of arrears in the moments to help planning for arrears before the LTB opens – assessing documentations; trying to coordinate services between EPIC, Housing Stabilization Funds, and putting together payment arrangement plans and getting all of it in writing so that when the LTB opens there’s no motivation to evict because there is already a payment plan  
    • Education for landlords to salvage housing before LTB opens  
    • City of Toronto Team for the GTA; another team that works out of Albion in the west end, and St Stephens for downtown.  
    • City of Toronto Management is working with OW and ODSP offices and LTB folks to get direct referrals from them to make sure that tenants can make realistic repayment plans  
  • Assess risk through Eviction Risk Assessment, determine who will need re-housing and set them up looking  
  • Contact Toronto Community housing lawyers, where applicable   
  • Seeking Rent Bank, HSF, or legal clinic support, letting clients know there is an eviction ban at the moment but it is about to be lifted 
    • Create information boards on the ban lift, seek all forms of income support and tackle cases one by one  
  • Some Landlords are asking for rent plus repayment. Ensure all evictions presented to clients are legally binding, as laid out by the LTB; connect with legal aid clinic where uncertain 
    • Some clients have been presented with N4 forms that are ammended by landlords to include “if July rent is not paid along with August rent, tenant agrees to move out.”  
    • Review all eviction notices with client to ensure legality  

Preparing for heavy workloads: 

  • Take vacations right now to anticipate high volumes of workload  
  • Document all issues – create templates so that each client can be swiftly assessed and documented  
  • Start the assessments now, and develop a triage system to address highest-to-lowest risk/need  
  • Building proactive relationships with landlords before the ban is lifted, or as the ban is being lifted  
  • Case load anticipate double or triple – Adding additional staff (landlord and housing support person), temporary staff/contracts, shifting responsibilities and expectations to prepare for client support increases, and anticipate other services clients may need with a plan in place for swift referrals  
    • Extra services required may include legal services, financial services to prepare for evictions; moving support; furniture; housing help; etc 
  • Develop standard template for crisis response strategies to enact in cases of imminent/swift evictions 
  • The eviction ban has allowed focus on other aspects of case management; preparing to shift to focus more on housing. 
  • Housing Professionals need to continue to connect and collaborate, perhaps through an inter-agency communication forum. EYET’s Community Forum can be a space for that. 
  • Clients need support creating a budget that includes CERB and rent arrears repayments; create some templates for that to ensure the budget creation can be swift.  

Concerns around Bill 184: for further consideration  

  • Who will be drafting the repayment plans? Will it be landlords solely? Will verbal repayment plans be accepted? How can we ensure only written agreements with defined terms are standard? How can we advocate that the repayment plans should be standardized (I.e. the TCHC where the percentage of arrears for repayment not higher than 30% of income.) Alternative review of repayment plans could be the Duty Council at the LTB. — Legal clinics will be inundated. 
  • Must ensure clients check in with supports before agreeing to a repayment plan. If a landlord wants to make a repayment plan agreement with them, and wants them to sign anything, advise them to tell the landlord they are interested in signing, but need time with the document to review. Support and connect them to legal services, review plan to ensure that it is realistic.  Fear landlord will draft repayment plans that are not fair for client’s ability to pay. Educating clients on what their rights are and making sure they seek support before signing anything. 
  • Housing professionals are uncertain of the ramifications of Bill 184, and need to take the time to educate ourselves on the bill itself to get the full knowledge base to support clients. 

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Community Mapping for Effective Referrals

Community Mapping for Effective Referrals

On June 25th 2020, housing professionals from across Toronto gathered in a series of Community Conversations to collectively discuss the ways in which the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has caused significant shifts in the ways agencies are able to provide services for clients who need them, resulting in uncertainties and inconsistencies in the availability of some supports. 

Together, housing professionals shared services available at their own agencies, discussed shifts and changes to services for referrals, and identified new services that have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic to provide adapted supports for clients. Gaps in services were highlighted in an effort to share challenges and strategies for addressing them.  

The conversations produced a number of resources that can support holistic, client-centered services by offering:  

  • Housing Help 
  • Financial Support  
  • Food and Basic Needs 
  • Employment and Life Skills  
  • Health and Wellness  
  • Social Supports  
  • Specific services that are limited, or needs that continue to be largely unmet, during the COVID-19 pandemic include: 
  • Mental health supports, increasing as people continue to be isolated 
  • Social supports and opportunities for community building  
  • Telephones and internet access as physical spaces continue to be closed 
  • Harm reduction and safe consumption outside of the downtown core 
  • Daycare and parenting support  
  • Eviction prevention, as the LTB opens in July there is an anticipation of high volumes of evictions that have been prohibited 
  • Supports for international students & newcomers who are ineligible for many programs 
  • Service bottlenecks that are inconsistent between media advertising and availability of services, long wait times  

Identified Services and Supports

A-Way-Express  Consumer/Survivor led courier company 
In addition: 

    • Food Bank on Wednesdays 1pm until 3pm only
    • Employment Counselling online
Food and basic needs 

Employment and Life Skills 

A-Way Express 
Reena  Updated information for organizations and community members on how to maintain safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Health and Wellness  Reena Covid-19 Community Resources 
Evangel Hall 
  • Take-out Meals, Mondays to Thursdays, 10:30am to 12:30pm (counselling being offered outside)
  • Clothing bank by request only (no donations)
  • Washrooms (allowing people to enter one at a time)
Food and basic needs 



Spiritual Services 

Evangel Hall Mission 

Evangel Hall Housing 

Adjusted Drop-in Services (including meals) 

John Howard Society 
  • Danforth location: Harm Reduction equipment 
  • Other services are over the phone (transitioning to seeing one client at a time in outdoor locations) 
Harm Reduction supplies  John Howard Society of Toronto Services 
Furniture Bank 
  • Phone ahead of time 
  • Home deliveries will resume by July 6th 
  • Accepting corporate donations only at this time 
  • May offer virtual tours in future 
  •  – Still doing some deliveries 
  • Can’t go and look at furniture 
  • No option for pick-up 
  • Flat rate for delivery of furniture 

Alternative options: 

  • Habitat for Humanity has furniture on website 


  • For Women, interest free loans for furniture when moving into a new place 

Income Supports for Women 

Accessing Furniture Bank Services 
Toronto Public Libraries 
  • Hotspot (internet) and computer lending 
  • 17 locations to open on June 29th 
  • Will open for computer use and holds, curbside pick-ups 
  • July 20th rest of TPL locations that can open will open 


Wireless Hotspots 

TPL Services 

TPL Reopening Plan 

Mustard Seed  Take-a-lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday  Food and basic needs  Mustard Seed Program 
Native Child and Family Services  Youth location: 

  • Help Indigenous Youth to find housing 
  • By appointment only 
  • Online by Zoom and Instagram 

Food Hamper Services (once per week) 

  • For Indigenous community 
  • Youth and families 
  • Call: 416-979-8510 or 437-217-3278 

Mental Health Support Strategic Partnership 


Food and basic needs 

Youth Services 

Mental Health Support Strategy 

City of Toronto  930 Subsidy allowances for people on waitlists: 

  • Housing Connections (for anyone) 
  • For Indigenous People (Wigwamen, Gabriel Dumont, Anishinaabe Homes, Amik) 
Income Supports  City of Toronto Covid Service Updates 

Rent Geared to Income Subsidy 

Housing Connections 

City of Toronto  Cooling Centres 

  • Locations mainly downtown 
  • Need more around the city 
  • Need access to phones, washrooms, and drinking water, Internet and computers 
Health and Wellness 

Basic Needs 

List of Cooling Centres 
211  Continues to provide service and referral information over the phone and online.   Varied  Ontario 211 
Chalmers Bot  Requires a computer. Provides regularly updated services available near you through map, including:  

  • Emergency shelter 
  • Food  
  • Clothing depots 
  • Drop-ins open 
Varied  Chalmers Bot Website 
Redeemers Common Table Drop-In   Updated Listing Locations for:  

  • Food 
  • Drop-ins 
  • Shelter 
  • Wifi, phones, hotspots 
  • Washrooms, Showers 
  • Clothing, Laundry 
Varied  Covid-19 Resource Guide Pamphlet 

Common Table Meal Program 

Common Table Drop-in  

Native Women’s Resource Centre  Offering: 

  • Online Counselling 
  • Support Line 
  • Support Email 8AM-12AM 
Health and Wellness 
NWRTC Website 
Yonge Street Mission  Now offering: 

  • Food Bank Services 
  • Mental Health Services 
Health and Wellness 

Food and Basic Needs 

YSM Modified Services Directory 
Street Health  Offers updated food bank directory  Food and Basic Needs  Food Banks Directory 
George Brown College Augmented Education  Offering free employability skills programming with 82% employment rate:  

  • Culinary Skills Preparatory (September) 
  • Construction Craftworker Foundation 
Employment and Life Skills  Augmented Education Program 
Rogers  Connected for Success Program:  

  • Partnership Agreement for Low-cost internet access 
Basic Needs  Connected for Success Info 
Ontario Works  Offices allow people to use their phones   Basic Needs 


OW Office Locations 
Choice in Health Clinic  Offering abortion services   Health and Wellness   Choice in Health Covid Contact Information 
University Health Network  Changes to service delivery include: 

  • Home delivery program 
  • Food delivery  
  • Virtual Care  
Health and Wellness   UHN Covid Updates 
Rexdale Community Health Clinic  RCHC is undertaking ongoing advocacy to open more Harm Reduction and Safe Consumption Sites beyond the downtown core of Toronto. Join their advocacy efforts.   Health and Wellness   Rexdale Adapted Healthcare Services Directory 

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Adapting our work during Covid-19

On May 6th, 7th, and 8th 2020, housing professionals from across Toronto gathered in a series of Community Conversations to collaboratively consider:  

How has COVID-19 shifted the ways in which we deliver housing help services? What strategies for adapting service delivery are housing professionals across the sector developing for doing this work? 

The conversations resulted in a number of identified challenges and strategies that fall within the following themes:  

  • Client Support 
  • Programming and Service Delivery 
  • Organizing Staffing / work structure 
  • Financial Concerns and Considerations 
  • Client Concerns  
  • Self and Collective Care  

The conversations also resulted in a number of tools that can support the work across the housing sector during Covid-19. These tools include:  

  • The Mighty Network – a social media-based community space for organizations  
  • Trello – a tool for tracking work  
  • Asana – a tool for tracking project-based work  
  • Microsoft Teams – tool for collaborative working that is integrated with Outlook  
  • Slack – digital communication platform for remote teams   
  • Zoom – video conferencing program  
  • GoToMeeting – alternate video conferencing platform  

Shared Challenges and Strategies 

Challenges  Strategies 
Unable to hold programs, workshops, etc. Using Social Media platforms to provide programs: Facebook Live allows live Q&A; Instagram Live; YouTube Livestream. 
Accessing food services that are provided by the agency – drop-in meals, etc.  Providing meals outside the door on a pick-up basis with marked social distancing lineups outside. 
Delivery of food/goods to people’s homes cannot happen anymore.  Shift to a pick-up model or meet client in a common area (i.e. a foyer of a building, outside their home) for pickup of groceries & other essentials.  
New move-ins that enter a shared living space from high risk situations are putting other occupants at risk (rooming houses, shelters, etc.).  New move-ins required to isolate in unit for fourteen days; provide services like grocery delivery and other essential goods with drop-off outside the door to make isolation accessible. 
Drop-ins are closed, and so organizations have become less accessible to potential clients.  Posting digital ways to access intake/services on doors of centers so visitors know where to go to seek support. 
Locations that remain open are highly susceptible to Covid-19 outbreaks.  Nurses on-site taking temperatures, limiting access to anyone showing symptoms. Increase disinfecting all surfaces, redeploy staff to prioritize.
Outreach work is challenging and unsafe. Poster campaign to list services and contact information, pasted in high traffic areas; post contact information on all service site doors. Set up at hotline with voicemail for inquiries, and dedicate/redeploy staff to monitoring and returning calls there.
Safety concerns around going to viewings and ethical concerns around sending clients to viewings, especially if high risk.  Facilitate digital/virtual tours of units first; schedule in-person only when decision to take unit has been made.  
Social distancing and site closures have limited capacity to see multiple clients. Triage: priority for clients without secure or safe housing; use check-ins and phone calls for supporting people who have housing already. 
Client intake and engagement/relationship building with newer clients.  Set up intake over the phone; create engagement programs online (social media, email, webinar); have calls that include social and emotional check-ins to deepen a relationship; video calls when possible to imitate a face-to-face meeting. 
Shelters unable to exercise social distancing measures in current setup.  Reduce services to fewer people; cancel programs; serve meals through window; have contactless pantry to deliver food to clients from safe distance.  
Crisis support is difficult when working from home. Set up emergency hotline; provide flexibility to schedule to accommodate crisis; if in-person crisis management needed, provide PPE to client.  
When outbreak occurs, Canada Post will not delivery mail to units/buildings with outbreak. Arrange delivery to head office, redeploy staff to sort mail and deliver periodically with no contact (ie: outside door).  

Client Support 

Challenges  Strategies  
Food access – vulnerable people should not be leaving their houses  Providing gift cards for grocery delivery and setting up delivery accounts for clients that are higher risk so they can have food delivered. 
Clients at higher risk of eviction: some not paying rent, no eviction restrictions mean evictions will come laterPrioritize connecting with landlords and creating a payment plans for the future. Keep up-to-date with RTA rules as they change, inform clients. 
Social distancing and site closures have limited capacity to see multiple clients Triage: priority for clients without secure or safe housing; use check-ins and phone calls for supporting people who have housing already. 
Helping clients with tasks like paying bills is a challenge; over-the-phone explanation is not as effective Provide clients with written, step-by-step guideline for doing tasks that need support, tailored to each type of support needed. Email/mail the printed guide to them, or drop off in their mailbox (distance delivery). 
Housing stabilization is challenging without home visits  Set up weekly checklists for clients to do the work at home themselves; go through the checklist on the phone; include all requirements under RTA; encourage client to walk you through the checklist as if you were doing a home visit.  
Assess clients to provide home visits to those clients with high needs, if possible. 
Clients aren’t familiar with new technology needed to receive support. Set up training; screen record the installation and use of apps and send videos over text that are easy to follow; research YouTube instructional videos on tech tools and send to clients. 
Clients experiencing social isolation no longer have access to groups and programs. Set up online groups and programs; use tools alternative to Facebook like The Mighty Network where clients can connect with each other but not share personal contact information; set up online games and activities for clients using Zoom, provide phone-in number for those without devices/internet.  
Some forms (ie financial applications) require collecting documentation from clients that are in-person (ID copies; signatures) Advocate for allowing photographs of IDs; set up contactless exchange with clients (drop documents, pen, camera, etc on doorstep for client to sign/use, exchange without direct contact, use PPE during exchange).  
Note: Access to Housing is allowing delays during Covid, applications will be backdated, consent forms can be sent later.  
Client schedules and responsibilities have changed, hard to connect.  Let clients make their own appointment times or leave message with their availability; call them at that time even just to say it is not a good time and schedule something else; text regularly to do welfare checks; clearly state service changes and contact instructions in voicemail message.  

Organizational/Work Structure 

Challenges  Strategies  
Needs of the community have changed and continue to evolve and change throughout the pandemic. Re-deploying staff to different departments to manage workflow changes (i.e.: administration; support staff; taking calls; training/educating clients; working in food bank/meal delivery). 
Disconnect between management and work staff is doing. Increased number of team meetings; increase communications; management should be more responsive and get trained on remote team management tools. 
New challenges that have not been seen before or have solutions to.  Open space for discussion to get input from team; make space for asking for help and suggestions in every team meeting.  
Team disconnect – frontline staff working onsite more connected, people working from home disconnected. Team meetings with built-in, structured check-ins that are social as well as work related, more than once a week. Daily morning check-ins to start each day with the full team. 
Staff feeling unsure of workload. Scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins from managers with team members (once a week or every other week) to make sure needs are met and workplan is clear.  
New technologies are being used and hard to adapt to.  Scheduling weekly ‘tech check-ins’ to orient staff on tech and practice using different tools. Provide intra-agency training to staff weekly on any new tools or new ways to use the tools.  
Social distancing in the office is difficult.  Rotating work schedule so only a safe number of team members are in the office at a given time, the others working from home. Rotate the shifts.  
Declaring zones at the office for different teams and team members that are marked and separated safely.  
Not able to monitor social distancing outside the office means safety concerns for the office and client spaces.  Screening and social distancing processes with clearly posted signage for clients as well as staff when they arrive on location.  
Regular office hours don’t always make sense with clients in the current context. Shift hours of working to ensure increased accessibility by clients; have flexible hours rather than increasing the hours worked. 
No access to printer/scanner/stamps/etc from home. Budget for tools required, or for printing and mailing at a shop close to home; alternate days to go in to the office to use those things and do that work in batches. 

Financial Concerns and Considerations  

Challenges  Strategies  
Financial supports have been uncertain, things are changing, new things are offered but eligibility is unclear, OW offices were down for a time and lots of waits.  THAP is processed quickly on the phone; Bridging Grant cheques can be sent to landlords directly.  
Clients don’t have access to technology needed to access services remotely. TELUS and Rogers have donated mobile devices to some agencies; Calls to community for donation of devices that can be used for connecting to internet/social media/ other outlets. 
PPE Availability is limited, and inaccessible due to costs.  There is a shortage of masks and gloves in the city, but agencies should be able to access a fund to purchase those.  
Clients cannot afford PPE, masks. Sourced donations from community members and supporters for homemade masks via social media.  
Staff have to work from home with necessary devices, tools, and high-speed internet connection to ensure access to work.  Taking advantage of City of Toronto funding to provide staff with equipment needed to continue to work from home (headsets; computers; highest speed internet; etc).  

Client Concerns  

Challenges Strategies 
Fears and uncertainty associated with covid 19. Providing educational materials and in-depth updates over the phone or by email. Provide recorded video explaining situation, changes, financial supports, etc that clients can watch on a mobile device. 
Isolation and mental health concerns. Increased frequency of check-ins; doing risk-assessments proactively to identify supports needed; having a more flexible boundary around contact (ie: providing work cell number and extending hours you’ll answer calls). 
Increased risk of domestic violence. Encourage private check-ins; identify signals or codes to check in with clients who can indicate unsafe situations or ask for help discreetly; have a social distance walk check in periodically for privacy and safety. 
Device and technology accessibility. If a client acquires a device, set up a way to train them on how to use it; download apps they may need for them; screen record instructions on how to download an app and text it to them; collect instructional videos for them to watch so they can access the platforms for communicating.  
Internet access. Community housing / shelters wired internet in whole building for free Wi-Fi.  
Parenting and daycare. Be flexible; let clients make appointments around their children’s work/play schedule. 
Changes to services.  Trying to connect clients to new organizations that are providing services that they need; researching community services, doing more referrals.  
Furniture access at move-in. Furniture bank is only doing curbside drop-off, prioritizing emergencies; plan ahead for moving furniture. 
Information, programs, services are changing almost daily and it’s hard to keep up.  Holding regular ‘information sessions’ over conference call or video chat for all existing clients to attend, learn new information, ask questions.  

Self and Collective Care 

A number of strategies for coping with Covid-19 and prioritizing self and collective care can help housing professionals to avoid burnout and solidify the necessary boundaries that will allow the work to continue. 

Challenges Strategies 
Feeling isolated in the work. Prioritizing connection with colleagues and making space and time for social check-ins as well as work-related check-ins. 
Suggestions included:  
  • Friday Fun Day – a meeting dedicated to fun activities and online socializing held weekly.
  • Draws and prizes – gift certificates or other fun prizes to win in a draw every week

  • Moments of humour – sharing jokes and fun facts to start meetings 
Feeling isolated socially. Scheduling time to connect with family and friends regularly. 
Workload increases.  Starting the work day with a routine (ie: stretch, shower, get dressed) to signal a separation of work and life. 
Blurred work/home time due to working from home.  Set a specific work schedule and turn off alerts on devices when outside those hours.   
Anxiety over Covid-19. Set boundaries around reading the news. Schedule your ‘news time’ during the day and only read/watch news during that time.