According to a report form Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services April 24, Toronto’s Out of the Cold system is dangerously close to turning people away as it saw a nine per cent jump in overnight guests. Photo by Michael Swan

Toronto's Out of the Cold system faces ‘breaking point’: report

  • April 25, 2017

A nine per cent jump in overnight guests has pushed Toronto’s Out of the Cold system dangerously close to turning people away, according to a new report from Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services.

There were 13,199 overnight stays this past winter in the loose network of church basements, community centres, synagogues and mosques that each offer shelter and a meal to the homeless one night per week. That translates into 96 per cent occupancy across the program, despite the addition of new sleeping mats that would translate into 762 extra overnight stays over the course of the winter season.

“Without a decrease in demand or added mats, there will be homeless people turned away each night,” said Dixon Hall CEO Neil Hetherington in a press release.

“The Out of the Cold program is facing a breaking point within a two-year period unless something is done immediately to decrease the demand or increase the supply of beds,” said the report released April 24.

Out of the Cold’s 16 faith-based locations served 28,538 dinners between October last year and April this year, a 1.83 per cent increase. As well, there were 11,220 breakfasts served.

Despite the increased demand, there has been a 10 per cent drop in the number of volunteers available to help as Out of the Cold celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Last winter there were 9,948 volunteers, compared to 10,990 in 2015-2016.

The increased demand despite a mild winter and fewer extreme cold weather alerts is no surprise, according to the Dixon Hall report.

“Weather does not impact program occupancy. Most sites remain at capacity or close to capacity regardless of Extreme Cold Weather Alerts (EWCA) issued by the City of Toronto,” the report said.

Over 80 per cent of Out of the Cold guests are male and 40 per cent are 55 or older, including 1,208 who were older than 65. More than half of Out of the Cold guests are repeat visitors, including 82 who have stayed with Out of the Cold 40 times or more.

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