The City of Toronto is opening an additional warming centre on Monday after drawing criticism for not having an adequate number of facilities.
Located at Cecil Community Centre, the new warming centre brings the city's total for the winter season to four. It can accommodate 30 people, which increases the city-wide capacity to 142.
All four warming centres -- the other three are located at Scarborough Civic Centre, Metro Hall, and Mitchell Field Community Centre -- will open at 7pm on Monday night, and be open until further notice.
Toronto's warming centres are activated when an Extreme Cold Weather Alert is issued, the parameters for which are based on a forecast of -15°C or colder, or a wind chill of -20°C or colder. An alert was issued for the city on Monday afternoon ahead of frigid temperatures expected over the coming days.
Earlier this month, 155 faith leaders from the Stone Soup Network sent a letter to Mayor John Tory and City Councillors urging them to open additional warming centres and make them available 24 hours a day throughout the winter. The group also called for an end to encampment evictions, calling the practice "unconscionable." To date, 1,680 people have sent a notice to city officials, advocating for the same.
The Stone Soup Network's letter was sent following the deaths of two people experiencing homelessness in city. On Christmas Day, a man froze to death in his tent, and on January 7, another person was killed in fire at a Liberty Village encampment.
"We fear there will be more deaths if the city does not open the warming centres and prioritize affordable safe housing for the city’s more vulnerable," the letter reads.
Ninety-two people experiencing homelessness died in Toronto in 2022. On a monthly basis, January saw the highest number of deaths, at 24.
In addition to the four warming centres, Toronto also operates seven 24-hour respire sites and a network of shelters that, together, can provide overnight emergency accommodation to more than 9,000 people.