With Toronto under an extreme cold weather warning and no end in sight to the freezing temperatures, shelter for the city’s homeless and most vulnerable has become increasingly sparse.
Temperatures in the city and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will see temperatures below -20 C this weekend. With the wind chill, it will feel like -30 overnight.
Harm reduction workers from the Moss Park overdose prevention site have voiced concern about shelter space for the city’s most vulnerable.
Last Thursday, harm reduction worker Zoe Dodd told Global News she couldn’t find beds for two women in need on Wednesday night.
Late Saturday night, the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society tweeted that they were told warming centres and shelters were full and they were unsure where to send people once the Moss Park site was closed for the day.
“Warming centres full, BLC full, no shelter beds at central intake. So where are we to send folks in -22 weather?” the tweet said.
The city of Toronto released a statement Sunday that said its shelter system is responding to the frigid temperatures with “additional beds available, 24/7 street outreach and 24/7 low barrier respite drop-in services.”
The city said shelter occupancy across Toronto was at 95 per cent Saturday night, “which is similar to occupancy levels seen over the last few months.”
“Most of the winter respite drop-ins and Out of the Cold programs are operating at capacity, however, there were up to 60 spaces available last night and the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre overnight respite program located at 129 Peter Street had capacity to serve 20 to 30 additional clients overnight,” the statement said.
The city has also opened The Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place to accommodate those in need. It has a capacity to serve 110 people and according to the city, it saw 71 on Saturday night.
The TTC is redirecting buses to stop outside of the building and city staff dropped off tokens at the Moss Park site on Dec. 28.
Mayor John Tory said in a statement Sunday that the city outreach team will visit Moss Park before it closes for the day to “ensure anyone who needs shelter is able to access it.”
A petition has been started to get Tory to open the Canadian Military Armouries at Fort York and Moss Park to increase space for those in need. Activists have been pushing the action for months, but to no avail. To date, the petition has over 31,000 signatures.
Tory said that staff believes the Better Living Centre is a better option than the armouries.
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