October 27, 2017 11:26 am
Updated: October 27, 2017 1:02 pm

Toronto expands 24-hour warming centres for homeless during winter months

As winter approaches the dangers surrounding Toronto’s homeless population become even more pressing. But as Marianne Dimain tells us, the city is adding several new winter shelters to help the homeless stay warm.

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The homeless in Toronto will have more options to stay warm this winter with the expansion of the city’s warming centres.

The city’s shelter, support and housing administration announced on Friday that the number of respite sites will increase to five from the three provided last winter.

“Our shelters are very busy and staff are working full-time on opening new shelters to address increases in demand before the end of the year, into 2018, and beyond,” said Paul Raftis, general manager of shelter, support and housing.

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READ MORE: New data reports 27 homeless deaths in Toronto so far in 2017

“In the meantime, we are increasing the number of sites providing 24/7 winter respite services and tripling the days of continuous service availability.”

The number of indoor sleeping spaces will also see an increase to 250 from 160. The warming centres will operate from Nov. 15 to April 15.

READ MORE: ‘Homeless is not a brand’: Toronto clothing line criticized

The locations of the centres are as follows:

  • Yonge and Bloor site at 21 Park Rd.
  • Downtown east site at 323 Dundas St. E.
  • Downtown west site at 25 Augusta Ave.
  • Parkdale site; details available shortly
  • Scarborough site at 705 Progress Ave.

Officials said the additional services will be funded by the city and operated by non-profit groups.

A report released by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty last year indicated city-run homeless shelters in Toronto are bursting at the seams as space is becoming increasingly limited with many choosing alternatives or simply staying outdoors, especially during the winter months.

Homeless advocates have also expressed their concerns in recent years about the number of unreported deaths of those living on city streets.

READ MORE: Addiction a top cause of homelessness across Canada, but not always No. 1

Earlier this year, Toronto Public Health (TPH) moved to change the way they track the deaths of homeless people.

Up until then, city officials only recorded the deaths of homeless people in city-funded shelters.

But the new initiative involving 200 health and social service agencies now allows them to collect data on deaths on the street and other locations, such as a friend or family member’s home.

The latest numbers from TPH show there have been 46 deaths of homeless people between Jan. 1 and June 30.

VIDEO: Toronto Public Health launches initiative to better track homeless deaths in the city

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