Filling the gaps: How Unity Health’s programs support Toronto’s homeless population

By Jennifer Stranges, Unity Health Toronto

When Dr. Stephen Hwang joined Unity Health Toronto, he was drawn to the organization’s longstanding commitment to helping those most in need. All three of the network’s hospital sites were founded by the Sister’s of St. Joseph, who were called to serve people who are disadvantaged.

“Unity Health has always been dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness, and it’s always been an area we’ve sought to find innovative ways to provide better care,” he says.

Yet, as Hwang devoted his clinical care and research to caring for people living without permanent shelter, he noticed something else. Not only was the homeless population in Toronto growing in size, the needs of the population were growing as well. Living without shelter puts people at risk of many health challenges, but people who are homeless are also more likely to experience mental health problems and age-related decline. 

Today, caring for people who are unhoused remains a core part of the mission at Unity Health – a value that informs the basis of research, education, outreach and clinical care. The network has also continued to expand its services to meet patients and clients where they are, particularly in the areas of mental health and geriatric care. 

“Our services fill an important need for patients who often fall through the cracks,” says Hwang.

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