In Toronto, the Medical Officer of Health issues an extreme cold weather alert when temperatures fall below -15C. Recently, researchers led by St. Michael’s Hospital reviewed coroner’s records and emergency department charts from five downtown hospitals to explore the relationship between weather conditions and hypothermia among adults experiencing homelessness between 2004-2015. They found that while extreme cold temperatures put people at higher risk of hypothermia, most cases of injury and death due to cold occur in moderate winter weather.
This data suggests that the current state of the housing, shelter, respite, and warming centre systems in Toronto leaves many people at risk of injury and death due to cold. For example, there is currently only one warming centre open during extreme cold weather alerts (Metro Hall, with a capacity for 50 people). It is critically important to have a cold weather response strategy that includes low-barrier access to shelter beds and multiple warming centres throughout the winter months, not just on extremely cold days and nights.