Alana Banton was born and raised in Toronto. She has a master’s in community development and work as a follow-up support worker at Wigwamen. Her role is to provide transitional support to newly housed Indigenous peoples and developing capacity building programs. They have years of experience in outreach and program development.
An overview of the reality of homelessness during winter in Toronto
Homelessness is a complex issue experienced in almost all neighbourhoods in Toronto. As the winter approaches, being homeless can present many significant hardships. Many assume that people living on the street should be able to go to a shelter for a safe and adequate place to stay during those harsh winter months. However, many shelters in the city experience significant capacity issues, bed bugs, and drugs making it very challenging to find a spot. As a result, many people experiencing homelessness find it safer to brave the cold weather on Toronto streets.
How can members of the community help during the cold months?
St. James Town is a vibrant diverse community with people from all different economic backgrounds. There are several ways that members of the community can help. First, if you see someone experiencing distress due to exposed skin, signs of frostbite, unconscious, or unresponsiveness please contact 911. Second, if you encounter someone on the street ask them if they would like a warm drink or meal. Most of the time they will say yes. That meal may be their only meal for the day and would make a significant impact on that individual. Lastly, many people have things sitting around their house that they do not use such as blankets, pajamas, extra toothpaste, or cans of soup. I recommended that everyone create a care package of essential items and donate it to someone experiencing homelessness or a local shelter.
What resources are available for people experiencing homelessness in winter (either by the city, or shelters), and what resources are available for people who want to help?
Within the City of Toronto, there are several resources available year-round to support people living on the street. The central intake number is a resource used to refer clients to resources and shelters. This number is tel:416-338-4766 or tel:877-338-3398.The Out of the Cold program, run by Dixon Hall, provides hotel spaces for individuals facing homelessness between mid-November and April – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Remember that individuals living on the street are people too and deserve a safe and adequate place to live. If you would like to help the homeless population, volunteer at your local community-based organization, donate, and be kind.