TORONTO — Ontario says it will give municipalities and Indigenous communities $255 million to address an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless shelters across the province.
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark is expected to make the announcement at a press conference later this morning.
The government says communities can use the funding to acquire motel and hotel spaces to support physical distancing, hire more shelter staff, and buy more personal protective equipment.
The funds can also be used to purchase cleaning supplies and be added to rent and utility banks to keep people from becoming homeless.
Toronto will receive $94.5 million of the funding to prevent outbreaks in its shelters.
Of the 20,000 people who used Toronto’s homeless shelter system last year, 711 contracted the disease — and six died of the virus.
One recent outbreak linked to the COVID-19 variant has ripped through the Maxwell Meighen Centre in downtown Toronto, infecting dozens of people.
Clark said in a statement that with the increase in shelter outbreaks, the province needed to take action.
“This investment will provide our municipal service managers with the financial ability to take any means necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 in shelter spaces,” he said.
Clark said at the outset of the pandemic, the province asked all shelters to develop outbreak management plans and complete infection, prevention and control education.
The province has asked shelter managers to ensure those plans are updated now that variants of concern are on the rise in Ontario, he said.
In late February, Ontario added homeless people to the list of those who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1 of its plan.
Shelter-system residents were to start receiving their initial vaccine doses last week, the city said at the time.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health had previously stated that homeless residents would not be eligible for a vaccine until the inoculation drive entered its second phase.