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City pauses admission of couples to emergency shelters amidst rising incidences of domestic violence

HAMILTON, ON – In response to increasing incidents of concern involving couples accessing hotel-based temporary emergency shelter spaces, including domestic violence, the City is temporarily pausing intake of couples into these emergency shelter spaces pending a safety review.

To ensure it can continue to accommodate people who need shelter, the City’s hotel-based temporary emergency shelter will focus on increasing space for single women and ask men to access available spaces in the men’s system. Couples who wish to develop joint housing plans to secure permanent housing together will be supported to do so. This existing process allows for the consideration of safety and risk assessments for couples wishing to access.

Today’s decision, which is effective immediately, follows multiple incidents of concern raised by providers, including multiple incidents of domestic violence in hotels providing shelter in the past two weeks alone.  

In keeping with its commitment and responsibility to ensure the safety of shelter-system clients, frontline staff in our homelessness serving system, and that of all residents in the community the City will be undertaking a safety evaluation of a couples-based emergency shelter response that accounts for the needs of women in situations of domestic violence with aim to ensuring their safety.

The evaluation will consider advice from Indigenous partners, the Women’s Housing Planning Collaborative, and the Violence Against Women sector. Prior to the pandemic there was not a dedicated couples shelter. The current emergency shelter couples response was implemented during the pandemic and since implementation we have experienced increased issues of concern, including those of domestic violence. In addition, the evaluation will consider evidence-informed best practices including implementation of system-wide domestic violence risk assessments.

The City’s hotel-based temporary emergency shelter spaces do not have the resources to adequately support couples together experiencing domestic violence, nor those experiencing acute mental health and addictions related challenges. 

As the City works to address the unique emergency shelter and housing needs of couples, the City will continue its advocacy to senior levels of government to address issues that do not fall within the City’s authority, including the provision of adequate acute mental health and addictions supports, and increasing access to domestic violence supports that can make it difficult for individuals to secure and maintain housing.  

The City thanks our partners and frontline staff across the homeless-serving system for their ongoing work and support in the service of unhoused residents of Hamilton. The City of Hamilton has a comprehensive Housing and Homelessness Strategy, which is guided by the Council approved 10-year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan to make sure everyone in Hamilton has a home. In Hamilton’s Systems Planning Framework: Coming Together to End Homelessness, our community has laid out a roadmap for ending chronic homelessness by 2025.

Quick Facts

  • Prior to the pandemic there was not a dedicated couples shelter. Hamilton’s homeless serving system began accommodating couples together within the system in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. As a new temporary addition in the emergency shelter system, couples had been served in hotel spaces operated by shelter partners.
  • From January 2020 through September 2021, 485 households representing more than 1,000 individuals moved from homelessness to housing.
  • In 2021, the City committed an additional $950,000 in annual funding (year over year) towards a new shelter focused on addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, trans-feminine, trans-masculine, and non-binary community members experiencing homelessness.
  • In June 2021, Hamilton Council approved further interventions in its post-COVID adaptation and transition plan for Hamilton’s housing and homelessness system which includes a one-time investment of $2 million for housing allowances for clients of City funded Intensive Case Management (ICM) programs.
  • Investments specifically targeted towards housing-focused interventions to prevent and end people’s experience of homelessness total $26 million annually in regular funding and $63 million in pandemic response funds. During the pandemic, additional investments have enabled:
    • Temporary expansion of shelter space across the system from 341 to 507 beds plus additional overflow space, as well as a new temporary women’s shelter operated by Mission Services. 
    • Expansion of Housing Focused Street Outreach staffing to proactively engage unsheltered individuals. This team works seven days a week to build trust, and work with individuals to find safer, humane, and supportive housing options while coordinating referrals to other supports.
    • Significant investment in community drop-in programs to expand and maintain services for vulnerable residents, including: meals, showers, harm reduction supplies, and overnight access to drop-in services. These include investments in the Wesley Day Centre, YWCA’s Carole-Anne's overnight drop-in space for women, Mission Services Willow’s Place Daytime drop-in for women, and youth drop-in at Living-Rock.
    • An increase in the number of Canada-Ontario Housing Benefits allocated for distribution to people experiencing homelessness, totaling 246 permanent monthly subsidies averaging $350 for households to apply towards rent.
    • In 2020, the City funded 693 portable housing subsidies with durations ranging from 3-8 years.


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