Activists hand out cold weather kits for the homeless

Kits save lives but are only a ‘Band-Aid solution’ advocate says

Volunteers with the group Project Winter Survival gathered today to assemble and distribute 3,000 cold weather survival kits to help the city’s homeless deal with the frigid temperatures.

Each kit includes a sleeping bag, winter hat, scarf, gloves and other necessities — but they’re only a “Band-Aid solution” to the city’s homeless problem and its over-crowded shelter system, says group co-founder Jody Steinhauer.

Between 500 and 600 of the city’s homeless remain on the streets during even the coldest weather, Steinhauer said.

“These kits help them survive and from what we’re told [they] save lives,” she said.

Steinhauer says the city needs long-term affordable housing to make a more meaningful difference.    The city ended its extreme cold weather alert on Saturday as temperatures rose to about 0 C. Forecasters predict a high of 3 C for Sunday.

But the deaths of three homeless men during the recent cold snap  — attributed to frigid temperatures — have put officials under pressure to do more.

Task force

Earlier this week, mayor John Tory sought to address the problem by putting homeless families into Scarborough motel rooms. He also appointed a task force to look into Toronto Community Housing.

The six-member team will be led by Senator Art Eggleton, a former Toronto mayor. and will study the issues that have recently plagued TCH and its affordable housing units.

The warmer weather is both good news, and bad as the city shuts its downtown emergency shelters. Other services, which are mobilized during extreme cold weather alerts, will also stand down.

“Extra beds and warming centres [were] open,” during the alert said Lauren Gostick, a social worker with the charitable group Ve’ahavta.

“Tonight it’s been terminated so people are going to have to go outside where they wouldn’t have been outside for the last few days.”

Volunteers assemble cold weather survival kits for Toronto’s homeless. Each kit includes a sleeping bag, winter hat, scarf, gloves and other necessities. (CBC)


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