by Corey Weir
Freezing temperatures are set to return yet again before winter’s end in southern Ontario.
The city of Toronto has issued an extreme cold weather alert, advising the homeless to find shelter.
Extra shelters will open up across Toronto to give relief to existing facilities due to the expected heavy overflow of people seeking shelter.
Constable Ryan Willmer of 23 Division of the Toronto Police Service said they are doing what they can to help the public brave the brisk weather.
“Some divisions are opening their community rooms up to the public for warming centers,” said Const. Willmer. “People are free to bring their animals. We serve coffee or warm beverages to help as much as we can.”
“We have officers downtown that if they see a homeless person or someone in need they try and help them find shelter or somewhere warm to go to get out of the cold,” said Const. Willmer. “It’s cold out there and we’ve definitely seen it with the amount of snow we have and the numerous cold days, so we understand people need shelter.”
These cold temperatures are rarely felt in Toronto at this time of year, but for other cities such as Winnipeg, where temperatures get up to -40 including the wind chill, they have to do things differently to ensure the safety of the homeless.
Judy Mcivor, an administrative coordinator of The Salvation Army in Winnipeg, said they do what they can to make sure everyone is safe.
“In the winter, when it’s cold, we find room, plain and simple,” said Mcivor. “They need shelter, we will find room in our building. If we have individuals that show up intoxicated, we have a zero tolerance against drinking but we have a spot in between the doors where they can stay and be monitored.”
Mcivor mentioned an organization that assists in helping the homeless get to shelters, “The Downtown Biz has social workers that walk the streets and if they see someone that needs shelter, they make sure they help them get there and they can come here to our emergency shelters or shelters in the area,” said Mcivor. “With Winnipeg’s weather we know it’s a constant, so that allows us to hire accordingly and have the resources to help everyone.”
This season, Toronto has been under an extreme cold weather alert for 27 days, which ties the number of days for 2008-2009.
The extreme weather alert will be in effect until further notice.