City of Toronto issues Extreme Cold Weather Alert and advises homeless people to seek shelter

TORONTO, March 15, 2014 /CNW/ - The City of Toronto has called an Extreme Cold Weather Alert to make vulnerable homeless people in Toronto aware of the dangers of staying outside too long in cold weather and to ensure they have safe and warm places to go. The alert is in effect until further notice.

An Extreme Cold Weather Alert is called to trigger additional homelessness services. Alerts are typically called in the morning for the coming overnight period so that community agencies have sufficient time to call in extra staff to provide enhanced services.

During an Extreme Cold Weather Alert:

  • Shelters are directed to relax any existing service restrictions and are reminded that if a bed is not available at their site, they are to allow the client to stay at the shelter until they are able to find a bed for them elsewhere in the system.
  • The City of Toronto immediately adds 26 shelter spaces for men and women to the shelter spaces available to staff looking to refer a client to a shelter bed.
  • Overnight street outreach is increased in the downtown core, focusing solely on warning people of danger and urging them to get into a shelter or another warm, indoor place. Workers will transport people to warm places if necessary.
  • TTC tokens are available at some drop-ins so people can use public transit to get to shelters.
  • Starting in January 2014 as a pilot, Metro Hall is automatically opened as a Warming Centre at 3 p.m. on the day an Extreme Cold Weather Alert is called. Here, people can get warm, have a hot drink and a light snack, and get assistance to access an emergency shelter bed. Pets are welcome and the Warming Centre remains open 24 hours a day for the duration of the Extreme Cold Weather Alert.
  • More than 100 agencies are advised of the oncoming extreme weather and asked to relax any service restrictions they may have.

An alert is called when there is increased danger to homeless people from extreme cold weather or extreme winter weather conditions. It is usually called in the morning when Environment Canada takes any of these actions:

  • predicts a coming overnight temperature of -15 degrees Celsius or lower, without wind chill
  • issues a wind chill warning for outdoor activity for people in the Toronto area
  • predicts extreme weather conditions such as a blizzard, ice storm or sudden drops in temperature

How to get an emergency shelter bed any day, any hour:

  • Call 311, or
  • Directly contact the City of Toronto's Central Intake line; within the Greater Toronto Area it is toll-free at 1-877-338 3398, or
  • Go in person to the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre, located at 129 Peter St. (at Richmond Street).

The Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre is always open and has 24-hour street respite for those who do not want a shelter bed, or for whom one is not immediately available. As well as walk-in access to shelter beds throughout the system, the facility provides housing workers Monday to Friday to assist street-involved people to find permanent housing and operates a 40-bed transition to housing shelter program.

If you see someone who you think requires street outreach assistance, call 311. Note that 311 is not an emergency number. In an emergency, dial 911.

Toronto is Canada's largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world's most livable cities. Toronto is proud to be the Host City for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit http://www.toronto.ca, call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or follow us @TorontoComms.

SOURCE City of Toronto

For further information:

Media contact: Pat Anderson, Manager, Partnership Development and Support, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, panders@toronto.ca