Extreme Cold Weather Service Usage

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This note summarizes our first week of extreme cold weather this year, and updates you on service usage by people experiencing homelessness.

2015 is the first year that Extreme Cold Weather Alerts (ECWA) are called by Toronto Public Health. Alerts continue to automatically trigger the availability of additional services for homeless people, including two 24-hour extreme weather drop-ins, additional street outreach, a direction to shelters to relax service restrictions, 26 extreme weather beds and TTC tokens for people to get to shelter.

However, the City may make these services available even without an Extreme Cold Weather Alert in place. Services are available in the absence of an active ECWA when Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff feel an abundance of caution is necessary. This could be because we feel that the forecasted weather poses a threat to vulnerable homeless people that is not reflected in the -15 degree overnight forecast that triggers an alert, and/or there are unusual pressures in the shelter system. When this is the case, direct communication to say that extreme cold weather services are available is made with emergency services, through 311, with the homelessness services community, and through media as necessary.

In the past week, extreme cold weather services were available to homeless people six of the seven days, beginning Monday night.

  • Total intakes to the two 24-hour extreme cold drop-ins over the week were approximately 570
    • Average overnight occupancy was 39 at one drop-in and 32 at the other
    • Total pets seen at the overnight drop-ins during the week was 14
  • At no time were all the 26 additional extreme weather beds in use
  • Overnight outreach teams had no need to call for emergency assistance
    • On no night did more than two individuals accept offers of service from outreach teams
    • Over the week, teams responded to about 70 concerned citizens calls to check on vulnerable people remaining outdoors
  • Shelter occupancy was between 92% and 94% each night, and
    • Out-of-the-Cold programs saw between 85% and 112% of their funded capacities in use

Toronto Public Health has called an ECWA for tonight with 24-hour extreme weather drop-in services available by 3 pm this afternoon.

Phillip Abrahams
General Manager
Shelter, Support & Housing Administration

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