The City of Toronto has partnered with technology and telecommunications companies to provide free temporary internet access for low-income neighbourhoods, long-term care homes and shelters.
While the City encourages Torontonians to stay home as much as possible, people who cannot afford home internet face barriers to receiving public health information, pandemic support services, emergency income supports and have difficulty staying connected to family and friends.
Donations from technology and telecommunications companies are going to help connect 25 large residential apartment buildings in low-income neighbourhoods with temporary free internet access for one year. Their donations include:
- hundreds of permanent mobile access point hardware and contribution of fees for some internet circuits from Cisco Canada;
- service management and maintenance from OnX Canada;
- fibre and hosting of core infrastructure from BAI Canada;
- fibre and single point of presence for internet from Beanfield Metroconnect; and
- volunteer labour provided by the civic tech community.
Bell will provide free Wi-Fi access in up to 10 of these low-income buildings for six months, waiving all installation and project management fees, to ensure all users can access the service.
Some buildings will be able to start using this free internet access in early May. Buildings will be identified for this service based on the size and location of the building, proportion of low-income residents, and residents without internet access and technology feasibility.
Technical solutions and signal strength may vary throughout each building, although the aim is to provide enough coverage and strength to read news, submit online forms, use messenger apps, but not stream media/games.
Long-Term Care Homes
The City of Toronto is providing free Wi-Fi access throughout all 10 City-operated long-term care homes. Previously, it was only available in common areas.
These new Wi-Fi hot spots will allow residents to stay connected to friends and family who are unable to visit during the pandemic.
Learn more about service changes in Long-Term Care Homes.
Rogers is donating free Wi-Fi for three months to four permanent City of Toronto shelter locations as of April 2020. Free Rogers Wi-Fi has also been installed in five temporary shelter locations, to help facilitate physical distancing.
People experiencing homelessness often rely on public Wi-Fi to access online supports and services and stay connected with loved ones. With the closure of most public Wi-Fi locations, including libraries, malls and restaurants, many vulnerable people no longer have access to the vital supports they need. Wi-Fi at these shelter sites will help to bridge this gap and support people to maintain physical distancing and isolation during the pandemic period.
Learn more about what the City is doing to support those experiencing homelessness.
Cell Phones for Vulnerable Torontonians
The Telus Mobility for Good program partnered with City of Toronto, Toronto Police Service, United Way Greater Toronto and lead community service providers to help vulnerable Torontonians stay connected to mental health and other crisis services during this difficult time. Through this partnership, eligible clients received a cell phone, data plan or a sim card, free of charge.
Prior to the conclusion of this program, resources provided by TELUS were distributed through FOCUS Toronto service agencies and the Toronto Mental Health Support Plan to their clients, based on assessment of need.
For your protection, Toronto Public Health recommends that if you are over 70 years of age, have a weak immune system or a medical condition, stay at home as much as possible.
Read more health advice for seniors that may prevent COVID-19 infection.
Where to Get Help
Seniors and caregivers can call 211 Toronto (24/7 accessing 150+ languages) for the most up-to-date information on the status of many community and social services for seniors. 211 Toronto can refer seniors to community-based services where available.
There are many agencies across the City that offer services to seniors living at home, such as:
- Meals on wheels
- Delivery of food and essentials
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Personal support
- Social phone calls
Call 211 to access these services.
City Run Programs & Services
Visit the Affected City Services web page for updates on impacted services.
Access to Food / Groceries
- Toronto Public Health recommends that people over the age of 70 stay home and use grocery delivery or have a neighbour or family member shop for them. If that is not possible, some stores have special hours to help seniors practise physical distancing.
- For low-income seniors, there are organizations and volunteer groups that will deliver groceries to seniors at home with no delivery fee; for example, the Friendly Neighbour Hotline (call 1-855-581-9580; available in 180 languages) or Sprint (call 416-481-0669, ext. 1225). Other volunteer grocery delivery services also exist, call 211 for referral.
- To apply for Meals on Wheels (regular home delivery of prepared fresh or frozen meals), call 211 or visit OntarioCommunitySupport.ca.
- The City and the Red Cross have partnered to provide food hamper delivery to qualifying seniors who are in self-isolation, do not have alternative access to food and are not currently receiving such assistance from another program. Starting April 7, call 1-833-204-9952 for eligibility and registration information.
- It is important to be aware of potential scams and fraud, for example people calling seniors, offering to buy their groceries, and asking for credit card details. Call 211 for a referral to a legitimate service.
- Many pharmacies/drug stores will deliver prescriptions (and in some cases, over-the-counter medicine and supplies) to your home. For example, Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall , Well.ca and many local pharmacies, offer deliveries. To arrange prescription delivery, seniors should call their local pharmacy. Refer to the label on your current medication for the pharmacy’s phone number. A list of pharmacies can be found at torontocentralhealthline.ca .
- Seniors can also call 211 to be connected to a community agency offering prescription and medication delivery to seniors during COVID-19.
Mental Health & Loneliness
In case of crisis, call Distress Centres of Toronto for crisis assistance, 416-408-HELP(4357).
Seniors who are struggling with mental health issues made worse by the measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 should call 211. Representatives will connect seniors to one of the City’s mental health service provider partners for direct phone support. Mental health service information is also available at 211toronto.ca. These mental health support services are free to all Toronto residents.
There are also many volunteer phone lines who offer phone-call check-ins and friendly conversation with seniors who are feeling lonely and need of someone to talk to. Call 211 for referral to one of these phone call services.
Tenants in Toronto Community Housing Corporation
Toronto Community Housing has increased measures to support senior tenants during this time, including:
- Conducting telephone check-ins with tenants to share COVID-19 related information and determine tenants’ requirements for support
- In-person visits where necessary to coordinate and provide critical support
- Cancelling in-person social and recreational programs, and other large gatherings
- Prominently displaying signage in every TCHC building which provides information about COVID-19 and physical distancing
- Connecting seniors who are in self-isolation with appropriate community agency support
- Increased cleaning and disinfection in high traffic, common areas, intercom and elevator systems
- Supporting clients through the Client Care Centre – call 416-981-5500 or email email@example.com; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
TTC Wheel Trans
Learn who is eligible to use the TTC Wheel Trans service and how to book.
Other Resources for Seniors
- Toronto Seniors Helpline for support, questions and referral: 416-217-2077
- Local Health Integration Network to apply for government-funded health and personal care services, and to apply for admission to long-term care: 310-2222, no area code
- Seniors Safety Line: contact and referral information for local agencies across the province of Ontario that can assist in cases of elder abuse, isolation, anxiety or depression; family members and service providers can call for information about community services; available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. Call 1-866-299-1011.
- Toronto Police Service to report fraud: 416-808-2222
- Crime Stoppers to report fraud anonymously: 1-800-222-8477(TIPS) or online at crimestoppers.com
If you have tested for COVID-19, you can now access your test results online here:
Toronto residents who have issues accessing results, or who do not have internet access, may contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.