Toronto will open two emergency shelters and distribute more than 310,000 N95 masks to the homeless

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As Toronto prepares for another period of freezing temperatures over the next few days, the City of Toronto will open additional places in emergency shelters to house the homeless.

The city announced Thursday that emergency shelter spaces will open at two community centers “in the coming days.”

“These new emergency spaces in community centers will provide a safe and welcoming place for emergency shelter, meals, and help connect to important wraparound supports like mental and physical health care,” said the city ​​in a press release.

No details, including when exactly the shelter spaces will open, were immediately shared.

According to Environment Canada, Toronto will experience freezing temperatures for the next few nights. On Friday, the temperature will drop to a minimum of -21°C, while on Saturday the minimum will be -18°C.

Temperatures will remain below freezing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with overnight lows of -6C, -10C and -8C, respectively.

In recent weeks, many advocates have sounded the alarm over the lack of beds in the city’s shelter system, leaving many people out in the cold. The city admitted that demand for beds is at an all-time high and shelters remain at or near capacity most nights.

According to the city, more than 7,200 people use its shelter system, which includes 75 permanent sites and 24-hour respite places. There are also 26 temporary shelters running as part of the COVID-19 response. from the city.

On Thursday, the city also announced that it would distribute more than 310,000 N95 masks to shelter customers. The city said masks will be enough for all customers for at least the next 14 days.

“This new order, with initial deliveries expected to begin in the coming days, will add to the city’s supply of PPE at shelter sites, including more than 213,000 N95 masks for shelter staff and guests, 188,000 surgical masks and more than 121,000 rapid antigen tests (RATs) for the system,” the city said.

Shelter advocates have called on the city to provide N95 masks to shelter patrons as cases continue to be reported in the system. As of Thursday, 47 city shelters are dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19.

Health officials have recommended the use of N95 respirators, which they say offer better protection against the Omicron variant.

“We’ve seen how quickly the variant can spread, and one of the places that I’ve been most concerned about and focused on getting daily updates is the shelter system. From using physical distancing to stringent infection prevention and control measures, providing access to masks for customers and staff, and activating ongoing vaccination clinics, the city continues to take an approach to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the shelter system and homeless people,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

This month, the city is hosting 154 vaccination clinics planned to help homeless people get vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to the city, as of January 7, 76% of people aged 12 and older who use the shelter system have received their first dose, 65% have received their second dose and 13% have received their third injection.

“Homeless people are among our city’s most vulnerable residents and we must do everything we can to ensure they are protected during this wave of the pandemic,” said Toronto Board of Health Chairman Joe Cressy. , in a press release.

“At the City of Toronto, we will continue to prioritize vaccination opportunities, build additional capacity and increase access to personal protective equipment for people experiencing homelessness. »

– with files by Abby Neufeld

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