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December 21, 2000
Extreme Cold Weather Alert Called
Toronto Public Health --- Toronto's Medical Officer of Health has
issued the first extreme cold weather alert of the 2000/2001 winter season to
help get homeless people in from the cold. The alert is effective for two days
- today, December 21 and tomorrow, December 22, 2000.

An alert goes into effect when Environment Canada:
· predicts a temperature of -15 degrees Celsius or lower, without wind chill
· issues a wind chill warning for outdoor activity for people in the Toronto
· predicts extreme weather conditions, such as a blizzard or ice storm.

Under the alert the following extra services are available to help homeless

· additional emergency sleeping spaces in Toronto hostels/shelters
· increased street patrols by Anishnawbe Health Street Patrol to reach homeless
· distribution of TTC tickets through 17 drop-in centres and outreach agencies
to help homeless people reach shelters
· provision of emergency transportation through the Canadian Red Cross for
homeless people trying to reach services/shelters.

The STREET Helpline service, 416-392-3777, also operates 24 hours a day to let
homeless people and front-line workers know where to find shelter and other
services. Members of the public can also call this number if they see a
homeless person sleeping outside.

This is the fifth year the extreme cold weather plan has been in place. Last
year, alerts were in effect for 12 days. "These alerts are a short term
emergency response to a serious social problem," said Liz Janzen, Regional
Director with Toronto Public Health.

"It in no way makes up for the desperate need for long term solutions to the
increasing problem of homelessness in our city. However, we hope that by
co-ordinating our resources and temporarily increasing some services we will
avoid the kind of situation in which homeless people can't find space or don't
know where to go for help when it is extremely cold."

Ms. Janzen chairs a designated alert team that meets regularly throughout the
winter to monitor conditions on the street. Team members include
representatives from Public Health and Shelter, Housing and Support Divisions,
the Out of the Cold Program, STREET Helpline, Anishnawbe Street Patrol,
Youthlink Innercity, and Toronto Police.

Members of the public and businesses who wish to donate blankets, food and
services, or volunteer their time throughout the winter, please call the
following numbers:

United Way of Greater Toronto 416-777-2001
Clothing: Chill Out 416-934-1227
Daily Bread Food Bank 416-203-0050
Community Information 416-397-INFO (416-397-4636)
Toronto, STREET Helpline 416-392-3777

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