Housing and Shelters

One night, as William Booth, Founder of The Salvation Army, travelled through the streets of London, England, he was surprised to see homeless men huddled under a bridge. In the morning he instructed his son, Bramwell, to “Do something.” And, with that, The Salvation Army’s work in shelters for people experiencing homelessness began.

In Canada, The Salvation Army opened rescue homes and shelters in 1886. Today we operate more than 50 emergency shelters across Canada & Bermuda and provide 5,500 emergency shelter, transitional and supportive housing beds each night for men, women, youth and families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. The Salvation Army also provides additional extreme weather response beds during the winter months.

In an atmosphere that respects diversity and affirms the dignity of each individual, Salvation Army shelter programs meet basic needs by providing a safe place, a warm bed, hot meals and tools to enhance stability. Through our holistic approach, aimed at meeting the multi-faceted needs of those we serve, we supplement every shelter stay with emotional and spiritual support.

Who We Serve

We help men, women, families and children experiencing or at risk of homelessness; we are especially concerned with supporting those experiencing long-term homelessness and facing housing exclusion.

Emergency Shelters

For someone facing a winter night on the street, access to an emergency shelter can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. However, the value of shelters goes beyond meeting immediate needs. Emergency shelters often serve as the “front door” to a broader system of supports. Salvation Army staff use their extensive knowledge and strong agency partnerships to help clients connect with the resources and services they need to stabilize in the community.

In 2014, The Salvation Army conducted wide-ranging consultations with staff, clients, researchers, and community leaders to understand “What are the best practices for ending homelessness, and how can Salvation Army shelters measure effectiveness in achieving this outcome?” From this work, seven evidence-informed, outcomes-focused Operating Principles were developed to guide the work of Salvation Army emergency shelters:

  1. We take a person-centred, holistic approach and ensure that people with particular vulnerabilities are supported.
  2. We help people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness to access stable, positive housing and appropriate supports.
  3. We use harm reduction principles to guide services to clients and behaviour-based criteria for restricting access to shelter.
  4. We ensure people who have high needs receive accompaniment and follow-up services.
  5. We aim to make every discharge from shelter an organized departure.
  6. We coordinate services and participate in planning with community partners.
  7. We track and analyze outcomes to inform planning and policy decisions and continually improve services.

Length of stay

  • Extreme Weather Response: overnight
  • Emergency Shelter: 30-90 days

Services provided in emergency shelter programs:

  • Housing connections and advocacy
  • Case management
  • Referrals to community-based resources (e.g. health, mental health, long-term support and other services)
  • Recovery support for substance abuse
  • Accompaniment
  • Follow-up support
  • Spiritual and religious care
  • Computer access
An outside view of a salvation army shelter

Ieshia stayed at The Salvation Army’s Florence Booth House, a women’s shelter, for two weeks. “I went down to my lowest. I didn’t have a place to stay. I was on the street,” she says. “It was bad. Rough.” Somebody told her about the shelter. “I had a roof over my head and food to eat.” She eventually enrolled in a substance-abuse program, hopes to get a job, her own place and go back to school.

multiple beds inside of a Salvation Army shelter

Transitional Housing

Across Canada, The Salvation Army has an increasing number of transitional housing units that offer a safe, supportive and semi-independent environment where people can rebuild their lives and make the transition from homelessness and marginalization to stable housing and meaningful engagement with the community.

Length of stay

  • Transitional Housing: six months to two years (varies by province/territory)

Transitional Housing Programs also provide:

  • Job training and job search assistance
  • Computer access
  • Life-skills coaching
  • Health and wellness activities

Safe Houses

Salvation Army safe houses provide safe and restorative environments, be that residential or on an outreach basis, that foster psychosocial healing for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. In addition to long-term housing, residents are provided access to emotional, physical, social, psychological, and spiritual support according to their needs such that they are given every opportunity to recover from the devastating effects of the trauma they have experienced. Rehabilitation is a journey and a process that takes time and wrap around, individualized, culturally sensitive support.

In 2009, The Salvation Army’s Deborah’s Gate opened in B.C. It was the first high security Canadian safe house and residential program of its kind for survivors of human trafficking. We have continued to provide leadership in our field by additionally opening four more holistic, non-residential programs to support survivors to heal and recover from their experience, and live beyond a program.

Supports and programming include but are not limited to personal goal development and 24-hour staff support, specialized counselling, cooking classes, nutritious meals, art therapy, gardening, yoga, ESL tutoring, life skills development, weekly and monthly group activities, and multi-faith chaplaincy.

In addition, when women and children flee abusive homes Salvation Army shelters such as Kate Booth House in Vancouver, Mumford House in Saskatoon and The Salvation Army Family Life Resource Centre in Brampton, Ont., provide immediate shelter and support. The shelters are crisis intervention, a bridge from an old life that was damaging to a new life of safety and security.

Youth/Senior Housing

Salvation Army youth shelters are committed to strengthening youth experiencing homelessness or at-risk homelessness, and their families.

The Salvation Army recognizes the tremendous need for supports specific to the homeless youth population and partners with other community agencies to help address changing and emerging needs of today’s youth. Our aim is to be a welcoming, safe place for youth to find community, belonging, dignity, respect, recovery, reconciliation and friendship.

Services include:

  • Education programs
  • Transitional housing supports
  • Anger management referrals
  • Mental health/addiction referrals
  • Employment support
  • Advocacy
  • Support groups
  • Life skills
  • Case management (youth set own goals)
  • Crisis intervention
An image of a Salvation Army shelter from the outside on a summer day.

Each year thousands of older adults are served by The Salvation Army in residential facilities where they thrive in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and encouragement. The Salvation Army is committed to providing residents quality care in a safe and secure environment that maintains a sense of home.

The Salvation Army respects the residents’ self- determination and dignity, viewing both the resident and family as partners in care and services. We treat all residents with equal regard. Our staff keep current in knowledge, skills and techonology.

Residential services include:

  • Nursing
  • Medical
  • Pharmacy
  • Recreation
  • Advocacy
  • Respite
  • Hair care
  • Foot care