FOCUS (Furthering Our Communities Uniting Services) Toronto is a collaboration of over 154 Community Agencies led by a cross-sector partnership between the Toronto Police Service, the City of Toronto and the United Way of Greater Toronto. The model brings together the most appropriate community agencies through weekly situation tables to provide a focused, wrap-around, risk-mitigation approach to help the most vulnerable individuals and families who are at Acutely Elevated Risk (AER) due to complex crises, potential harm, and/or victimization. There are six geographically based situation tables across the city.
FOCUS is not an entity or ‘brick and mortar’ organization but a systems-focused collaboration. If a participating FOCUS Agency partner, has a client (individual, family, neighbourhood etc..) that they feel meets the threshold of ‘Acutely Elevated Risk (AER)’, (i.e. the situation overwhelms their ability and/or mandate to help or they believe further crisis, harm, victimization will result.) then that agency or the Toronto Police is supported in bringing that situation forward to their local FOCUS table to determine if their recommendation meets the criteria for AER and the coordinated response required to minimized harm. Once the cross-sector table confirms that the recommendation meets the AER criteria, the FOCUS Table response is a multi-agency, coordinated, team approach, providing the individual/family/neighbourhood with the supports that they need to minimize harm and establish greater stability.
What is Acutely Elevated Risk?
Acutely Elevated Risk refers to situations where imminent harm is present. Without immediate intervention, these situations will escalate and a negative outcome such as complex crises, potential harm, criminalization, and/or victimization is likely to occur.
FOCUS Situation Tables:
The purpose of the Situation Table is to bring together diverse service providers to identify situations of Acutely Elevated Risk and prevent negative outcomes from occurring. Service providers rapidly respond and offer wraparound services to individuals with diverse needs who find themselves at risk of complex crises, potential harm, and/or victimization.
How it Works:
By bringing together diverse sectors (e.g. mental health, addictions, criminal justice, social services, youth and family services, developmental services, etc.), the Situation Table collaboratively resolves situations of Acutely Elevated Risk. Individuals in complex situations, facing multiple risk factors that cannot be addressed by any single agency on its own, are presented. The most appropriate service provider then takes the lead and interventions are planned. The response is a multi-agency, coordinated, team approach within 24 to 48 hours, providing the individual/family/neighbourhood with the supports that they need to minimize harm and establish greater stability.
Enhancing Community Safety and Well-Being across Toronto:
Each year, FOCUS Toronto receives a wide variety of situations from partner agencies and police. These Acutely Elevated Risk (AER) situations encompass five to six unique risk factors on average. The risks range from mental health and addictions to human trafficking and gender based violence. Through referrals by partnering agencies and police, the work of FOCUS Toronto essentially intervenes in a variety of complex AER situations that span many community safety and well-being concerns. These collaborative, multi-sectoral and risk driven interventions are possible because FOCUS Toronto has over 155 partner organizations with unique mandates, programs, and capacities designed to help individuals and families across the spectrum risk factors. Since its inception in 2013, FOCUS has consulted on thousands of unique situations.
Evolving FOCUS partnerships to address new areas of Community Safety and Well-Being:
Historically, one area of community safety and well-being in Toronto and Canada that had limited prevention and intervention capacity is the area of preventing Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE), also referred to as Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE).
This is an area often closely intertwined with hate crimes. Recognizing this gap in 2014, the TPS began to work internally by striking a small project team to explore alternative capacities. In essence, creating a risk mitigation approach that could be engaged up-stream from enforcement so that criminality, crisis, harms, and victimization could be prevented.
In 2014, the TPS Community Partnerships and Engagement Unit (CPEU) partnered with TPS Intelligence Services - Security Section, Hate Crime Unit, and the Toronto Police College to find alternatives. Over the next decade, the TPS, supported by the two FOCUS Toronto co-leads (City of Toronto and the United Way Greater Toronto) worked through the FOCUS Toronto partnerships to build IMVE prevention/intervention capacities at the FOCUS Situation Tables and right across Toronto.
In 2018, the Toronto Police Service, FOCUS Toronto, and later, Yorktown Family Services (YFS) - Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) program began a partnership with Public Safety Canada's (PSC) Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence to continue to strengthen Toronto’s partnerships and responses. In 2021, in recognition of this successful prevention/intervention work, the Toronto based ETA program expanded their catchment area to help all communities across Southern Ontario.
Concerns about IMVE? How to access help in Toronto:
There are now multiple pathways available across Toronto to help individuals and families. Regardless of the entry point, systems are in place through FOCUS Toronto to navigate the most appropriate risk intervention response. Accessing help can occur in a number of ways:
- A criteria situation involving IMVE is brought forward to a FOCUS Table through a partner agency or police.
- A family or individual can reach out directly to Yorktown Family Services (YFS) and their Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) program.
- Reported to or discovered by the Toronto Police Service. As required, the Community Partnerships and Engagement Unit will be engaged, and if applicable, the situation will be referred to FOCUS Toronto, ETA, or other partners.
- Report to a Community Agency or Toronto Police and they refer directly to ETA.
Meetings are held at FOCUS tables across the City. Each of the six tables meets once per week at a designated time and place.
- FOCUS Downtown West (11, 14, 52 Divisions)
- FOCUS Downtown East (51 Division)
- FOCUS Rexdale (22, 23 Divisions)
- FOCUS Scarborough (41, 42, 43 Divisions)
- FOCUS Black Creek (31, 32 Divisions)
- FOCUS York (12, 13 Divsiions)
Community Partnership Award 2020/21: Toronto Police Service
FOCUS Presentation to Toronto Police Services Board
FOCUS Toronto Star Article
Sixth FOCUS Table Launches
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Contact FOCUS Toronto
F.O.C.U.S Toronto is jointly managed by the United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT), Toronto Police Service (TPS), and the City of Toronto (CoT). For further information please contact a member of the FOCUS Coordination Team.
FOCUS Coordination Team
TPS Detective, Brian Smith
UWGT Manager, Evon Smith
CoT Manager, Scerena Officer
Toronto Police Service
Brian Smith, Detective #6723
Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit
Risk Intervention Coordinator
Toronto Police Service, FOCUS Co-Chairs
General email: [email protected]
United Way Greater Toronto
Working with communities in Peel, Toronto and York Region
Manager, FOCUS Toronto
City of Toronto
Manager, Community Safety & Wellbeing Unit
Social Development, Finance & Administration