The COVENANT Study: COVID-19 Cohort Study of People Experiencing Homelessness in Toronto

In Progress


Homelessness and Housing

COVID-19 is a major threat to the health of people experiencing homelessness in Canada. COVID-19 tends to spread rapidly in shelters, and people experiencing homelessness are at high risk of poor outcomes if they develop COVID-19.

Reliable, longitudinal, epidemiologic data is urgently needed to guide public health and housing responses to prevent and control COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless populations across Canada, and to understand if current efforts to control COVID-19 (e.g. through creation of new shelter spaces, relocation of individuals to hotels) are effective.

About the Study

Over the next year, the COVENANT study will check in regularly with approximately 700 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto. We will track their COVID-19 symptoms, interactions with the health-care and shelter system, and the places they’ve stayed overnight.

Based on what we learn, we will create an in-depth, continuously updated mathematical model to accurately track and predict COVID-19 infection in Toronto’s homeless population.

This is a longitudinal study, which means it collects data about people over a period of time. Our data collection will be managed by the MAP Survey Research Unit. They are experts in following and interviewing hard-to-reach populations such as people experiencing homelessness and/or mental health challenges.

The Outcome

The actionable, real-time data generated through this study will reveal the patterns and trajectory of COVID-19 in the homeless population, and will help us better understand what works to prevent, detect and manage COVID-19 in this high-risk group. Through established policy and service-provider relationships and major investment through the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (Government of Canada), this data will be rapidly applied to inform and improve COVID-19 responses in cities across Canada.


Homelessness and Housing

Dr. Stephen Hwang

MAP director Dr. Stephen Hwang is one of the world's most renowned researchers in homelessness, housing and health. His groundbreaking research changed the conversation about homelessness and precarious housing in Canada - these are critical health crises that can be prevented.


  • Dr. Arnav Agarwal (University of Toronto)
  • Dr. Stefan Baral (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Dr. Allison Chris (Toronto Public Health)
  • Dr. Eileen de Villa (Toronto Public Health)
  • Dr. Irfan Dhalla (Unity Health Toronto)
  • Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras (Sinai Health)
  • Dr. Jen Gommerman (University of Toronto)
  • Dr. Alainna Jamal (University of Toronto)
  • Dr. Robyn Lee (University of Toronto)
  • Dr. Allison McGeer (Sinai Health)
  • Dr. Samira Mubareka (Sunnybrook Hospital)
  • Dr. Aaron Orkin (Inner City Health Associates)
  • Dr. Mario Ostrowski (University of Toronto)


  • Michael Liu, Research Coordinator
  • Tadios Tibebu, Research Coordinator
  • MAP Survey Research Unit


  • COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (Government of Canada) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research


  • Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
  • Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, City of Toronto

Contact Info

Evie Gogosis, Research Manager