TORONTO – NEWS – A staff report from the City of Toronto is recommending changes to the criteria for activating Warming Centres during the winter season. The report, which will be presented to the Economic and Community Development Committee on April 25th, proposes revising the current criteria from -15 degrees Celsius to -5 degrees Celsius and/or when Environment and Climate Change Canada issues freezing rain, snow squall, winter storm, snowfall and/or blizzard warnings.
The proposed changes are based on feedback from community partners, stakeholders, and health experts, including Toronto Public Health. If implemented, the new operating model would eliminate the need for Extreme Cold Weather Alerts and would consolidate activations into a single process determined by the City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration team.
The report recommends that Council request $5 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments to continue providing Warming Centre services beyond December 31, 2023. The City’s approved 2023 budget includes $16.2 million for Winter Services Response, which includes funding for Warming Centre spaces between January 1 and April 15, 2023, and November 15 and December 31, 2023.
In addition, the report suggests that Council request the federal and provincial governments to urgently allocate an additional $20 million in Canada-Ontario Housing Benefits (COHB) in 2023-2024 to help households exit the shelter system and access permanent housing.
The full staff report is available on the City’s website at www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2023/ec/bgrd/backgroundfile-235826.pdf. While the City is committed to making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring, it emphasizes the need for new and enhanced investments in housing, health, and social services, as well as upstream interventions across systems and governments to address the root causes of poverty and homelessness.