The Moss Park armoury will open as a winter respite centre Saturday night instead of the previously scheduled Monday morning, as the city continues to be under a deep freeze.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a press release Saturday the armoury will be open as of 7 p.m. and will remain open 24-hours a day for the next two weeks “in response to unprecedented demand and continuing extreme weather conditions.”
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.
The city also announced that they are opening the Wellesley Community Centre as a winter respite centre and will increase capacity at the Better Living Centre to 200 and Regent Park Community Centre to 180.
“We are dedicated to meeting the needs of our city’s most vulnerable,” Tory said. “I want to extend my sincere appreciation to City staff for this extraordinary response to address this urgent situation.
“The city of Toronto is committed to providing shelter space to anyone who needs it.”
Environment Canada issued an extreme cold warning Thursday for Toronto and most of Southern Ontario, which is expected to last until Sunday.
The agency said Saturday has a daytime high of -17 C and a low of -23 C overnight.
Staffers gained access to the armoury at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and immediately began “retrofitting the facility” to be able to properly function as a winter respite centre, the statement read.
Federal officials said Friday that the Moss Park 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.
“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 had been calling for the facility to be opened for weeks. A petition garnered over 35, 000 signatures.
The warming centre located at Metro Hall, 55 John St., also remains in operation through the weekend.
–With files from Nick Westoll