Mitchell Field Warming Centre
I am receiving a growing number of calls and emails from residents concerned about the warming centre currently situated at Mitchell Field.
Many are upset we have lost our community centre use for over two years. Throughout my campaign many residents pleaded with me to have the vaccine clinic moved so they could resume use of Mitchell Field. Recreation centres are an important gathering place for community connectivity and exercise which is especially important in the winter. Others are worried about the proximity to a primary school and placement within a family oriented community.
I have been having ongoing meetings with the Shelter Supportive Housing Authority (SSHA) in charge of all shelters, the Corporate Real Estate Management, and Parks, Forestry and Recreation to determine a best path forward to better support our homeless neighbours during the winter months while also addressing needs in the community.
Willowdalers have been extremely gracious and patient while Mitchell Field has been used as a mass vaccination clinic for the past 2 years. We are the only community in Toronto that has made this kind of sacrifice. Throughout the decision making for both the vaccine clinic and the warming centre, the city did not take into account that Willowdale currently only has one fully operational community centre (Edithvale) because Goulding is undergoing renovations (until fall 2023). This means 120,000 residents of Willowdale only have one community centre. Seniors and families living in Willowdale need community centre space for physical and mental health.
I am also strongly advocating that any future decisions be made with community involvement to ensure best outcomes. My team and I are looking for alternative sites to ensure that those experiencing homelessness have a safe and warm place during the winter months. We have had several offers of space from faith communities in our neighbourhood. We look forward to sharing developments as they unfold.
If you have any ideas of spaces in Willowdale that are close to bus or subway lines, please let us know.
Current Status of Warming Centres:
Given the weather outlook for today, Warming Centres are being activated.
City Staff are working with partners to set up and operationalize the Warming Centres, so that they are open at 7 p.m. this evening. Warming centres are available by walk in. If a warming centre is full staff at that location will work to find an alternate location for someone.
Warming Centres are located at:
• Metro Hall – 55 John Street, Toronto, M5V 3C6
• Mitchell Field Community Centre – 89 Church Avenue, North York M2N 6C9
• Scarborough Civic Centre - 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, M1P 4N6
Information on Warming Centres and other services is available on the City’s website at www.toronto.ca/homelesshelp. Details are also being shared on the City’s social media channels.
The City supports 27 drop-in programs located across Toronto, the majority of which are open throughout the day today. We encourage those who are vulnerable and may be experiencing homelessness to visit one of these locations. Programs provide a range of services that may include access to snacks and meals, healthcare, showers, laundry, information and referrals, and social and recreational activities. More information can be found here:
Warming Centre Q&A
Who operates the warming centre?
The Warming Centre will be operated by Dixon Hall, an organization with extensive experience supporting homelessness services.
What will happen to regular programs at the community centre?
When the Warming Centre is open, the community centre will suspend recreational programs as the gymnasium will be required for those seeking shelter, and other spaces will be used to support the ongoing vaccination clinic. Starting in January, Toronto Parks & Recreation plans to run drop-in programs and open the weight room/track for the public's use. This programming will be disrupted when the warming centre activates and takes over the gym.
What is the capacity of the warming centre? The space we will use at this location will provide up to 50 spaces.
What dates has it been running thus far? Thus far the centre was open Thursday, Dec 15th to Friday evening.
What is the number of clients that have been hosted?
Five clients stayed on a single night so far.
What is the support homeless people receive?
Warming Centres give vulnerable people experiencing homelessness a safe, indoor and warm place to rest and access snacks, washroom facilities and referrals to emergency shelters during extreme cold weather.
How will people be directed or transported to the Warming Centre?
There is some negotiation with the TTC, and on some occasions, they will provide transportation if there are enough staff to support this.
When will the warming centre be open to clients?
The centre will be activated when the Medical Officer of Health issues an Extreme Cold Weather Alert (ECWA). There may also be instances when we open the Warming Centre independent of an ECWA, out of an abundance of caution due to colder nighttime temperatures and forecasted wind chill values.
Is there a line that the public can reach out to SSHA with their questions about the warming centre?
Questions for SSHA can be directed to email@example.com. The email will then be triaged to the appropriate staff within SSHA to respond.
What security and supports are available for neighbours?
Safety and security is a priority for the City and Dixon Hall and ongoing safety planning is a key component of the community engagement process. The operator of the site, Dixon Hall, works closely with Shelter, Support and Housing Administration and Corporate Security at the City of Toronto to develop community safety measures for the location. Dixon Hall also brings management practices that have proven successful at its other locations. All Dixon Hall staff are trained on de-escalation, conflict resolution and crisis prevention, intervention and management.
Residents can also call Warming Centre staff at 647-468-5406, if there are concerns that arise.
What should the neighbours do if an incident arises that they believe is from a warming centre client? (i.e. finding needles, witnessing unsafe behaviours etc.)
Depending on the incident, there are a number of resources local residents can access. If residents find needles, they can call 311 to report them. Harm reduction peer workers are also on site to support clients and can be accessed by contacting Warming Centre staff at 647-468-5406. Individuals experiencing or witnessing a mental health crisis can access the Toronto Community Crisis Service by calling 211 or 911. Appropriate calls will be dispatched based on the call location, dispatch criteria and availability of teams. If the incident is an emergency, please call 911.