City of Toronto issues an Extreme Cold Weather Alert – seek shelter, check on loved ones

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Based on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s forecast, the Medical Officer of Health has issued an Extreme Cold Weather Alert (ECWA) today for Toronto in anticipation of the cold weather conditions forecasted for the next 24 hours or longer. The ECWA will be in effect until further notice.

ECWAs are issued when temperatures are forecasted to reach -15 degrees Celsius or colder, or when the wind chill is forecast to reach -20 degrees Celsius or colder. Other weather-related factors may also be considered when issuing ECWAs.

ECWAs are issued to ensure Toronto residents take necessary precautions to stay safe from the cold. They also activate local services that focus on getting and keeping vulnerable residents inside. The City’s Warming Centres that were activated on January 7 will remain open.

As well, the additional Streets to Homes outreach teams that were activated on January 7 will continue to provide enhanced street outreach response to help support and encourage those living outside to come indoors. Throughout the winter, outreach staff hands out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing.

The City’s four Warming Centres are located at:
• 129 Peter St.
• 5800 Yonge St.
• Exhibition Place, Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Blvd.
• Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.

Generally, Warming Centres open at 7 p.m. on the day an alert is issued and remain open until noon on the day an alert is terminated.

Warming Centres will activate approximately 165 spaces, in addition to the more than 325 spaces created through the City’s 2021/2022 Winter Services Plan. Over the past five years, the City has continuously added and maintained new capacity in the shelter system. As a result, the number of beds currently available for single individuals and couples experiencing homelessness is at a five-year high. For complete information about this year’s winter plan, visit: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/housing-shelter/homeless-help/winter-services-plan-for-people-experiencing-homelessness/.

All services at the Warming Centres will be delivered following ongoing public health recommendations regarding COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of those using the centres. These measures include physical distancing, the mandatory use of masks, hand washing, conducting symptom screening and monitoring, enhanced cleaning procedures, and providing transportation to isolation and recovery sites for individuals that await results or test positive.

ECWAs are one component of the City’s Cold Weather Response Plan, in effect each year between November 15 and April 15. The Cold Weather Response Plan provides a framework for implementing and coordinating cold weather preparedness and response activities which focus on reducing the negative health impacts of cold weather conditions.

Those most at risk of cold-related illness are people experiencing homelessness or those under-housed, those who work outdoors, people with a pre-existing heart condition or respiratory illness, elderly people, infants and young children.

Information and tips for staying warm during cold weather can be found on the City’s website at https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-programs-advice/extreme-cold-weather/. Registration for Extreme Cold Weather alert notices is also available on this page.

The City asks residents to contact 311 if they see a person experiencing homelessness in need of assistance and the City will dispatch an outreach team to investigate. If the person is in distress or needs immediate assistance, call 911.

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