Team Lily Cheng
Willowdale Baptist Church Warming Centre Q&A
1. Why is the Mitchell Field Warming Centre closing when there is still a need?
The City responded to the requests of the community to return programming to Mitchell field and with the support of Councillor Cheng's office, we have worked to secure Willowdale Baptist Church at 15 Olive Ave. as a Warming Centre for 42 clients. This will ensure that there continues to be a Warming Centre in North York and four Warming Centre locations across the city.
2. What are the main objectives of a Warming Centre and how is it different from a shelter?
Warming Centres provide safe and warm spaces for vulnerable residents to come inside during the extreme cold weather. Warming Centres are one component of the City's Winter Services Plan, in effect each year between November 15 and April 15. Shelters provide year round temporary accommodation and related support services that assist people to move into housing. More information on Warming Centres and other services to help those experiencing homelessness can be found on the City's website at www.toronto.ca/homelesshelp or by calling 311.
3.Who is the operator of the Warming Centre?
Dixon Hall is contracted by the City to run the Warming Centre at Willowdale Baptist Church. Dixon Hall is a multi-service agency, and serves more than 10,000 people annually, impacting the lives of the most vulnerable and the most at-risk members of our community. For over twenty years, Dixon Hall has helped Toronto’s homeless and vulnerable residents find safe, stable housing through their shelter and housing support programs. They welcome opportunities to work with community partners to assure that the service is delivered in a safe, respectful and consistent manner throughout the season. They are happy to bring their expertise to these settings.
4. What kind of services and supports are typically offered at a Warming Centre?
Warming Centres give those who are vulnerable and may be experiencing homelessness a safe indoor and warm place to rest and access snacks, washroom facilities and referrals to emergency shelter where they can access housing workers and other wraparound supports. Staff are also trained on harm reduction and overdose prevention and response, and have access to on-site harm reduction supplies, including naloxone.
5. How can members of the public support and contribute to the operation of a Warming Centre for the unhoused?
Community members can bring donations such as clothing, books, food and coffee. Community members can also support by volunteering at the program. If you are interested in volunteering or donating please contact Farshid at 416-333-0563. Dixon Hall can also offer training for the community in topics such as Homelessness 101, Harm Reduction, and De-escalation. If interested in training please contact Haydar Shouly at Haydar.Shouly@dixonhall.org.
6. What kind of safety protocols are in place at a Warming Centre?
Warming Centres are staffed 24/7 for the duration of an activation by professional staff trained in Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC), CPR, de-escalation, harm reduction, and client support. Staff conduct needle clean up in and around the premises. In addition to shelter staff, each site is provided with a complement of 24/7 security staff. The Community Safety Team from the shelter at 5800 Yonge will also undertake regular patrols around 15 Olive Ave. when the Warming Centre is activated.
7.Who do we contact if issues arise related to the Warming Centre?
Neighbourhood residents can call Warming Centre staff at 647-468-5406 if there are concerns that arise. If the situation is an emergency please call 911.