Toronto’s Moss Park armoury to be opened as winter respite site after city, community requests

The Moss Park armoury in downtown Toronto is scheduled to open as a temporary 24-hour winter respite centre site on Monday as the city continues to deal with record-breaking cold temperatures.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced the opening of the federally-owned facility on Twitter Friday afternoon.

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“The Government of Canada has accepted the request from Toronto and Ontario to temporarily make the Moss Park Armoury available as a 24/7 warming centre for two weeks. We’re all working together to keep people safe from the cold,” Goodale wrote.

READ MORE: Toronto opens two new 24-hour warming centres amid extreme cold warning

The City of Toronto said the facility will be the seventh municipally-run respite centre. It will have 100 cots and access to meals, showers, hygiene kits and information on accessing housing supports.

Federal officials said the Moss Park armoury site is a temporary location and that the Ontario government is looking at a longer-term solution.

Ontario Housing Minister Peter Milczyn said in a written statement to Global News an announcement will be made soon.

“Our government is fully committed to providing a longer-term solution to meet the city’s need for a seventh 24/7 respite centre. We are working with City staff to deliver this solution as soon as possible,” he said.

READ MORE: Toronto looking into opening Moss Park armoury to help deal with homeless seeking shelter

“I will be meeting with Mayor Tory, along with Minister Hoskins, very soon to discuss the current situation and how best the provincial government can assist.”

Community advocates have been calling for the facility to be opened for weeks. Organizers say they’re waiting for details on long-term arrangements.

“The immediate opening of the armoury and involvement of all three levels of government is a good step and an important victory for homeless people in this city,” Gaetan Heroux, a spokesperson with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, said in a written statement Thursday afternoon.

“Despite the opening of the [Moss Park armoury], it’s clear that the city continues to scramble. We still have questions about what the province’s role will be and want to make sure the new space is adequate. Also, all winter respite programs end on April 15th, but homelessness doesn’t end on April 15th.”

READ MORE: Toronto’s low temperatures break records as deep freeze continues

On Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city was revisiting a Toronto city council vote that rejected a motion to open the Moss Park Armoury to the homeless last month, weeks before an extended cold snap gripped the city and dramatically increased demand for shelter spaces. An assistance request was subsequently relayed to the federal government by the province.

The City of Toronto opened two additional warming centres on Thursday at Metro Hall (55 John St.) and Regent Park Community Centre (402 Shuter St.) until the extreme cold weather warnings are ended. Those centres will stay open until the Moss Park armoury opens.

Meanwhile, Environment Canada said the temperature in Toronto will drop to -25 C and will feel like -36 C with the windchill overnight Thursday.

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