COVID-19 could soon “explode” within Toronto’s homeless population as government actions to curb the spread of the illness have the opposite effect on those who live without housing, advocates and front-line workers say.

People who work with the city’s homeless say more are on the streets because many drop-in and respite sites have closed, while others must limit their numbers inside. Meanwhile, clients cannot practise safe social distancing inside those sites, nor can they easily go the bathroom or wash their hands because many food banks, restaurants and coffee shops have shut.

“If anything, the attempt to social-distance the general population is worsening the situation for people experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Ritika Goel, a family physician who works with people experiencing homelessness.