Community Counselling & Resource Centre

Moss Park Armoury opens for homeless on Saturday night

January 6th, 2018

The Moss Park Armoury will be ready to shelter 100 homeless Torontonians tonight at 7 p.m., 36 hours earlier than first announced, city officials said Saturday.

In response to the sustained cold snap forcing virtually everyone on the city’s streets indoors overnight, the city has also increased capacity at two other warming centres by 180 spaces and opened another warming centre east of downtown at the Wellesley Community Centre at 499 Sherbourne Street.

On Friday, shelter administration general manager Paul Raftis told reporters the city would need the entire weekend to ready the Moss Park Armoury for use as a shelter. On Saturday afternoon he said the site would be ready in time for 7 p.m. Saturday.

“I think the measures we have announced today put us in a continuing position to offer help to anyone who needs shelter, that is our objective and that is our commitment,” Mayor John Tory said, saying the new spaces were quickly readied by city staff in the wake of unprecedented demand for shelter.

Raftis said 190 people slept at the Better Living Centre on the Exhibition Grounds last night, prompting officials to increase its capacity to 200 people going forward. Thirty-three people slept at the Regent Park Community Centre last night.

Regent Park Community Centre will now have 180 spaces, and a new warming centre at Wellesley Community Centre will open tonight, increasing the number of winter respite centres in the city to eight.

“We will have paramedics patrolling the downtown core and elsewhere, looking to help people who are street-involved,” Raftis said.

The federal government granted use of Moss Park for a period of two weeks, whereas Tory said he had asked for it until sometime in April.

“He continued to defend his stance in December, where city staff told him not to ask the federal government to open shelters at the city’s armouries.

“I think the advice we got from staff at the time was correct.”

A motion by Krystyn Wong-Tam to open the armouries to the homeless anyways was voted down in December 25-17.

Inside the armoury, rows of cots were seen laid across a large gymnasium.

City staff had set up a designated area for people with pets and washrooms were available with shower stalls. Dinner would be served after 7 p.m. and the Red Cross said it would distribute hygiene kits to anyone who arrived.

City staff says they are prepared to shuttle people in between respite centres in the event one place reaches its full capacity.

“If there is no space here, we will find a space for them,” shelter official Pat Anderson told CP24.