Thunder Bay – NEWS – Under the Thunder Bay Municipal Emergency Response to COVID-19, a new Cold Weather Response Plan puts a particular focus on preventing direct impacts of cold exposure on people experiencing homelessness.
An agreement has recently been finalized with People Advocating for Change Through Empowerment (PACE) located at 510-512 Victoria Ave E. to hire staff to operate a Warming Centre seven days a week, from 8 am-8 pm, until at least the end of March 2021. On Dec. 21, 2020, City Council approved funding for a Warming Centre as part of the plan, which officially opened today.
“We are excited to be able to offer use of our space to help meet the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness to get out of the elements,” said Georgina McKinnon – Executive Director of PACE. “We are thankful for the funding to hire staff to make this possible.”
The pandemic limited access to formal facilities such as shelters and informal location such as libraries, malls, and vestibules that are typically available during winter weather for vulnerable populations.
Winter weather will create significant risks for residents experiencing homelessness or precarious shelter as a result restricted access to formal and informal services due to COVID-19. In addition to personal impacts of exposure to cold weather, affected residents seeking care could exacerbate capacity concerns of healthcare providers as the pandemic progresses.
“Community partners providing services to local vulnerable populations have indicated that, while overnight shelter is strained, they believe the priority gaps are in daytime warming services, and the ability to respond to winter weather extremes,” said Mayor Bill Mauro.
“Given the community partners’ limited capacity to address this gap, this concern has been identified as requiring action under the City’s COVID-19 emergency response, and required allocation of City resources and facilities.”
The Cold Weather Response Plan will supplement external partners’ plans, and guide coordinated responses at various activation levels. It provides a framework for implementing and coordinating cold weather preparedness and response activities.
The Plan’s main objectives are to:
- Alert those most vulnerable to cold weather conditions that are either expected or currently exist;
- Enable those most vulnerable to take appropriate precautions; and to
- Outline stages of response with pre-determined thresholds, for action by agencies who are in a position to provide or alter services and operations to protect the vulnerable population.
The partners have been collaborating to address related concerns, including overflow and isolation shelter, but were not able to address the daytime and extreme weather gaps with the resources that were available.
Some supplies have been purchased by the Health Unit to support the effective operations of the Warming Centre.