Transforming Emergency Shelter – Demonstration Initiative

As emergency shelter operators across Canada are exploring their service delivery models with the motivation to focus on housing outcomes, this demonstration project showcases how emergency shelters can successfully transition to providing affordable housing with supports.

This project is a collaboration between The Salvation Army Centre of Hope, the Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion, and is funded through the National Housing Strategy – Demonstration Initiatives, delivered by CMHC.


The research is being conducted by Dr. Abe Oudshoorn, Dr. Carrie Marshall, Dr. Deanna Befus, and Colleen Parsons.

Since 2004, The Salvation Army Centre of Hope has been providing pay-for-stay private units co-sited in a building offering emergency shelter. This model was provided in congruence with an increase in demand for supported and affordable housing options. Phase 1 of this demonstration project explores this model of affordable housing for individuals with high needs, including supports on-site.

Here is a brief version of what residents shared regarding their experiences of living in these private rooms:

Residents were very positive of the option of having a private room. This added stability to their lives, provided safety, and was often contrasted as being superior to a dorm stay in a shelter. However, there were also some limitations to this living experience. Private rooms had more rules than living in your own apartment, such as not allowing guests and having very specific times for meals. Being in a building with mixed services including withdrawal management and emergency shelter beds meant that residents were immersed with other people with complex health and social challenges. Most saw it as a superior option to shelter beds, but did not necessarily perceive it as there permanent home or an ideal living situation. Here is a longer version of resident experiences and the positives and negatives of a private room in a multi-service building:

Shifting to a new service model within a building traditionally offering emergency shelter can be a significant task. This involves changes to infrastructure, new policies, and new staffing roles.

To assist with this, if organizations are interested in either creating new space that provides permanent housing with supports, or transforming existing emergency shelter space, the following is a practice guide that provides you everything you need to know:

CMHC has written an article on the project as part of their Demonstration Initiatives stream. To read the article, click on the image below:

This Project entitled “Transforming Emergency Shelter into Affordable Housing with Support” received funding from the National Housing Strategy under the NHS Demonstrations Initiative, however, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and CMHC accept no responsibility for them.

Ce projet “Transforming Emergency Shelter into Affordable Housing with Support” a reçu du financement dans le cadre de l’Initiative de démonstrations de la Stratégie nationale sur le logement. Cependant, les opinions exprimées sont les opinions personnelles de l’auteur et la SCHL n’accepte aucune responsabilité à l’égard de telles opinions.