Media Release: 

Statement Re: Homelessness and the Current Capacity of Shelter System


November 24, 2023 – The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) would like to offer the community some context—and reassurance—about the homelessness service system in the District of Thunder Bay.

With the change in seasons, many of us are concerned about the capacity of our shelter system and the ability for those currently living unhoused to stay warm this winter.

Quantifying the true number of homeless individuals in any community is complex. Homelessness is inherently inconstant and lacks a common understanding of definition, making it difficult to quantify. Any statistical count related to homelessness in our district is, at this time, an approximation based on the data that is available to us and observations made by staff and community partners. As service system manager and landlord, TBDSSAB has access to sufficient data systems to paint as accurate a picture of homelessness as possible. TBDSSAB coordinates collection of critical data about the homelessness system, including the centralized wait list, by-name list, and shelter usage. Individual programs would not have access to all the necessary data to tell the full story.

The encampment situation in the City of Thunder Bay has been well documented, however, it is incumbent upon us to note that there are people living unhoused in other communities in the TBDSSAB service area. TBDSSAB Outreach staff have been visiting our communities to offer support to unhoused individuals. A new Homelessness Prevention Program Data Analyst position was introduced this summer and is supporting staff and community partners to enumerate homelessness more accurately throughout the district.

The TBDSSAB outreach team has been working at encampments and shelters. Because they are part of the TBDSSAB team, they have access to other databases and can cross reference people to ensure accurate counts. Including knowing knowledge about those with a permanent residence who have chosen to live at an encampment for part of the year. As of November 23, 2023, our Transitional Outreach and Support Worker team counted 18 unique individuals sleeping rough in Thunder Bay. This is down from a count on Thursday November 16 where the team counted 28. We are confident in this enumeration.

TBDSSAB’s Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) budget for 2023/24 includes almost $3 million towards Community Outreach and Support Services, an increase of $600,000 over 2022/23. From this, TBDSSAB has three (3) full-time Transitional Outreach and Support Workers doing community outreach. We also fund community partners in their outreach and support activities, listed below. We are grateful to our partner organizations for supporting those living unhoused in our communities.

HPP – Community Outreach & Support Services Funding


Dilico Anishinabek Family Care to

collaborate with TBDSSAB for the Home for Good Program.

Elevate Northwestern Ontario to do community outreach and operate a warming/cooling centre. $376,600
Lutheran Community Care to fund their Quick Connect program, Tenant Support Program, and Social Service Worker. $397,903
Matawa First Nations to do mobile intake and outreach program. $100,000
NorWest Community Health Centres to operate the Care Bus which provides transportation, medical, and social services. $50,000
PACE (People Advocating for Change Through Empowerment) to operate a warming/cooling shelter which provides food, clothing, and peer support. $50,000
St. Joseph’s Care Group to collaborate with TBDSSAB for the Home for Good Program. $326,450
The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) to deliver outreach programs and supports. $594,300
District Food Security Fund Grants $500,000

Shelter usage is increasing as people move back into shelters for the colder months. Emergency shelters have not been at full capacity so far this fall. For example, there were 128 emergency beds offered in Thunder Bay as of October 31 with 90 being used. On November 22, 121 beds were being used. TBDSSAB is arranging for additional beds at shelters for overflow that will increase the total emergency shelter beds from 128 to 158.

In situations where there is no shelter capacity, even with overflow beds, arrangements are made for hotel nights. The community can rest assured knowing that outreach programs and the shelter system are prepared to support the unhoused through the winter.

TBDSSAB is grateful for the ongoing support and resilience of our emergency shelter partners: Grace Place, Shelter House, Salvation Army and Urban Abbey. We appreciate their cooperation and adaptability to ensure there are spaces for those in need.

TBDSSAB appreciates the community’s concerns around homelessness, especially with winters as cold as ours. It’s unfortunate that there are other numbers circulating that are causing unnecessary anxiety about the situation. However, we want to reassure the community that the homelessness system has the capacity to support the unhoused in our community.

Thank you,

Bill Bradica, Chief Administrative Officer, TBDSSAB