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As winter looms, homeless outnumber shelter beds in Sudbury

According to the city’s by-name list, there are still many unsheltered people in Sudbury, and with staff shortages closing the largest shelter, it could mean a tough winter for the vulnerable
Greater Sudbury's off the street shelter is located at 200 Larch Street downtown.

With winter fast approaching, it does not appear that Greater Sudbury has enough shelter beds, or people to staff those shelters, for the number of people on the active homeless list.

Called the Coordinated Access List, or the ‘By-Name list’, it was first created in July 2021 and mandated as part of the federal directive called Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy

The document is a comprehensive list of every person in a community experiencing homelessness. The list is also updated in real-time. Using information collected and shared with their consent, each person on the list has a file that includes their name, homeless history, health and housing needs. The urgency of their case is also noted. 

According to the City of Greater Sudbury, to date, 429 people have been added to the By-Name List since inception. Of the 429 individuals, 181 have been housed and 70 have been “deactivated,” referring to their move to ‘inactive’ on the list. This includes people who became stably housed, those who died, those who are missing or who have not had contact with their worker in 60 days, have moved out of the area, or have moved into systems like the jail, the hospital or a recovery program. They can be added again if they so desire.

There are currently 178 actively homeless individuals on the list.

Of the 178 individuals actively homeless, 13 are staying in encampments, 72 are “unsheltered”, 51 in shelter, and 42 are provisionally accommodated or “unknown.” 

As well, 25 individuals on the By-Name List have been housed and have since returned to homelessness.

In December of 2021, there were, since inception, 219 names on the list. City officials said 82 people had been housed, and 27 had been deactivated. At the time, there were 110 people without homes remaining on the list, and there were approximately 20 people remaining in the encampments. 

Since that time, the encampment in Memorial Park has been cleared, and the city has been approaching any new tents or encampments as laid out in the Greater Sudbury Encampment Response Guide prepared by Iain De Jong. Each new structure is visited by homelessness outreach workers and bylaw officers, and they are given a list of resources they can use before their structures are required to be removed, often weeks after discovery, so that arrangements can be made. 

However, one of the arrangements often made is at the Off the Street Emergency Shelter, but because of staffing shortages — both those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and problems recruiting and retaining staff — they have had to close overnight services. They have had a job posting up since February, with few successful applicants. 

Located at 200 Larch Street, the shelter is available for adults of any gender, aged 18 and older and is open seven days a week, from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. The 35-bed space provides a sleeping area, access to washrooms and showers, and housing-focused referral services to individuals who are homeless.

But staffing shortages have closed the shelter six times in six months, and almost required its closure for three days this past weekend. Stephanie Lefebvre, director of programs and planning for Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Sudbury/Manitoulin, told that thankfully, the city was able to provide some staff to ensure that didn’t happen. However, that may not always be the case.

“I can't speak for the city, but I don't think that this is their role,” Lefebvre said. “They are mobilizing some staff at the last minute, but they're not shelter workers, and it’s not their role. And this isn't a long-term solution, for sure.”

Normally, the shelter has three staff members and one security guard on duty. As of late, they have been getting by with two staff and one guard. But on the nights they are forced to close, they are down to one staff member, and that isn’t safe for anyone, staff or guests. 

“Closing the shelter is something that weighs enormously heavily on all of us. It is not something that we take lightly at all,” Lefebvre told 

She said the organization appreciates the community partnerships it maintains, and those partnerships are beneficial, but  their partners are struggling, too. 

“We’ve got to get really creative to make sure that people have somewhere where they can be,” Lefebvre said. “We've got good partnerships and people are doing all that they can, but most agencies are in the same boat.”

And though for much of the summer, the Off the Street Shelter has not been at capacity and has had beds available, that may not be the case as the winter comes. 

“It depends on the day,” Lefevbre said. “This weekend, it was not at capacity, but there have certainly been many days in recent months where we are hitting those capacity numbers. And certainly we anticipate that will continue as we get into the colder months ahead.”

There are other services available in Sudbury, but not always available to all. 

Cedar Place is an emergency shelter for women aged 20 and older, or families with children. Located at 261 Cedar St., it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The Sudbury Action Centre for Youth provides four emergency shelter beds for youth aged- 16-to-24 at 95 Pine St. The Elizabeth Fry Society provides nine emergency shelter beds for women and gender-diverse individuals aged 19 and over. 

But compared to the by-name-list’s people in need of housing, 178 actively homeless (13 staying in encampments, 72 unsheltered, 51 in shelters, and 42 are provisionally accommodated or “unknown,”) there may be an issue of space, especially if staffing shortages continue. 

During the daytime hours, the Elgin Street Mission and Blue Door Soup Kitchen offer indoor dining and drop-in services. 

The City of Greater Sudbury will not be opening a daytime warming centre this year, as they did during the pandemic. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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