covid homeless toronto

Doctors Without Borders to help open a 400-bed site for homeless COVID-19 patients in Toronto

Toronto health organizations are now working with one of the world's most well-known humanitarian groups to tackle COVID-19 cases in the city's vulnerable homeless population

Doctors Without Borders, more widely known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is now advising Inner City Health Associations (ICHA) on how to open the city's first COVID-19 Recovery Site. 

The 400-bed site is slated to launch in the near future, and according to ICHA, will offer social and medical supports for homeless COVID-19 patients, ensuring that residents are fully recovered before returning to Toronto's shelter system. 

MSF will provide "consultative and supportive advice" during the process, says ICHA.

The provincially-funded Recovery Site marks MSF's first-ever operation in Canada, given the organization does not typically focus on countries with well-functioning healthcare systems. 

The organization's expertise in responding to outbreaks like Ebola and cholera internationally will help to mitigate COVID-19's impact on Canada's vulnerable population experiencing homelessness, says MSF's Executive Director Joseph Belliveau. 

In the meantime, Toronto has launched a temporary recovery site in a private hotel that can accommodate 50 people as of today, said Dr. Andrew Boozary of the University Health Network

They are now "moving as fast as possible" toward launching the permanent 400-patient site, a location for which will not be released to the public out of privacy concerns.  

Toronto, which hosts the country's largest homeless shelter system, has seen 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in seven different shelters. 

The City is now in the process of opening more isolation programs,  where more than 175 patients without homes have been transported to await their test results.

According to Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Health has transported over 1,000 people to hotels, housing, and other spaces over the last few weeks. She says they are on track to move another 1,000 people by April 30.

"This is an unprecedented number of new spaces, and we have opened them in a very short time," said de Villa.

"Moving someone out of a shelter into a new space requires time and choice and resources, and most importantly it has to be done with dignity." 

Lead photo by

Gail Edwn Aguiar


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