The City of Toronto is set to open three warming centres Thursday evening following widespread criticism on an earlier decision to open them a day later instead.
The city backtracked its original plan hours after announcing it Thursday morning after councillors and homelessness advocates took aim at the decision to open centres Friday.
Now, the centres will open at 7 p.m and 8 p.m., according to a tweet Thursday from the city, in anticipation of a strong winter storm expected to hit this evening and last through until at least Saturday.
Temperatures are predicted to plummet Thursday night, making way for damaging winds, snow and possible flash freezes.
Warming centres will be available for walk-in at:
- Scarborough Civic Centre at 150 Borough Drive at 7 p.m.
- Metro Hall at 55 John Street at 7 p.m.
- Mitchell Field Community Centre at 89 Church Avenue at 8 p.m.
Environment Canada’s latest forecast shows the storm is expected to rear its head Friday morning with rain that changes to blowing snow as the day goes on. Toronto could feel a wind chill as cold as -20° C in the afternoon — a figure that triggers the city to issue a weather alert and open its warming centres.
Councillors call for review of winter emergency shelter response
Three councillors who sit on the city’s board of health criticized the city’s approach Thursday, saying the city’s thresholds to open warming centres “forces people to risk their health and safety on the streets in snow, rain, and winter weather.”
City protocol shows warming centres only open at 7 p.m. the day an alert is issued. Temperatures typically need to dip below -15 C or feel like -20 C with the wind chill for them to open.
In a release, councillors Gord Perks, Alejandra Bravo and Ausma Malik say they asked for “options” to increase the hours and locations of warming centres and drop-ins starting Thursday night.
“Each day, over 100 people are turned away from central intake because there is no space available in our shelters, which are stretched to capacity,” the statement reads.
“With cold weather and freezing rain arriving today, we have a duty in our city to protect one another.”
The councillors say they will be requesting a review of the city’s extreme cold weather alert policy when the board meets in January, the statement says, hoping to provide better protection for people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness.
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