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FAQ: Extreme cold weather alerts & services they trigger

The City of Toronto is expected to issue an extreme cold weather alert on Wednesday, which is intended to help the city’s homeless.

The alert will come a day after a man, believed to be homeless, was found without vital signs at a downtown bus shelter. He died later in hospital.

And it’ll come on a day that weather forecasters expect will be the coldest one during this current deep freeze, with the mercury dipping to -13 C and a wind chill near -25.

When is an extreme cold weather alert issued?

The public health department issues an alert when Environment Canada forecasts temperatures will reach -15 °C or colder in Toronto.

Extreme cold weather alerts may also be issued at warmer temperatures when the Environment Canada forecast includes factors that increase the impact of cold weather on health, such as wind chill, precipitation, low daytime temperatures or several days and nights of cold weather in a row.

How many extreme cold weather alerts are issued each winter season?

See the below interactive chart on stats courtesy of City of Toronto. Mobile viewers, click here.

What services are available to the homeless during extreme cold weather alerts?

  • Two 24-hour extreme cold weather alert drop-ins are opened by 3 p.m. on the day an alert is called; an additional facility serving youth will be available during alerts starting in January.
  • Shelters are directed to relax any service restrictions they may have.
  • Increased street outreach and transportation services. Focus is on informing clients about the danger of weather conditions and transporting them to indoor locations.
  • More than 100 organizations and agencies that work with homeless people are advised to prepare for increased service demands.
  • Transit tokens are made available in many drop-ins so people can reach shelters.
  • Additional shelter spaces are opened for men and women.
  • TTC tokens are provided to the following 17 community agencies for use only when Extreme Cold Alerts are called by the City of Toronto Shelter, Support and Housing Administration. Click here for the locations.

What additional services are available?

The Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre is always open and has 24-hour street respite for those who do not want a shelter bed, or for whom one is not immediately available.

As well as walk-in access to shelter beds throughout the system, the facility provides housing workers Monday to Friday to assist street-involved people to find permanent housing and operates a 40-bed transition to housing shelter program.

For emergency shelter, call 24/7
•    311 or central intake 877-338-3398 (free call)

If you see someone on the street in need of assistance:
•    Call 311 or 911 in an emergency

Click here to read more about the city’s cold weather plan.

Data compiled from City of Toronto