Update (Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022):
In response to questions around the capacity for overnight stays and whether or not those staying at the Warming Centre as it is currently set up in advance of the official opening for overnight stays are given beds, Home Base Housing Executive Director Tom Greening explained that there is currently space for 30 people overnight. Thirteen people stayed there for the night last night, and the Warming Centre will re-open tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, for overnight stays. Currently, the centre is only able to offer couches and chairs to those seeking warmth and overnight shelter, Greening said.
“Renos are underway and we plan on having 19 beds available,” he explained of the plans for the future overnight stay sector of the Warming and Counselling Centre, which is scheduled to open on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. However, Home Base Housing is still facing issues with regard to that opening, Greening expressed.
“We remain understaffed across all of our programs. Until we recruit additional staff, we will be open three or four nights per week [and] over the weekends,” he said.
Environment Canada has announced an extreme weather warning, stating that the temperature through the evening and night of January 10, until the morning of January 11, 2022, will be between –21 and –28 C, or a frigid –30 C with the windchill.
At the same time, KFL&A Public Health also issued a Cold Weather Health Warning for the region, stating, “This is the coldest air so far this season, more northern areas in our region, such as Plevna and Sharbot Lake, may see wind chill temperatures dip to -35°C.”
Public Health also explained that “when the temperature drops below -25°C or the wind chill is below -28°C, children and seniors should take precautions to avoid the effects of the cold, or be kept indoors to avoid cold injuries. KFL&A Public Health also works with community service providers, municipalities, schools, long-term care homes, and emergency service providers to ensure that vulnerable groups are taken into consideration.”
Although putting everyone at risk, the most vulnerable people who have no access to warmer spaces and homes face the most hardship during colder weather.
At the end of 2021, the City of Kingston announced the opening of a warming centre downtown at the former Odd Fellows Hall, located at 218 Concession Street. Last night, Home Base Housing and Lionhearts, responsible for the Warming Centre operations, opened the Centre urgently to provide shelter to people who need it. Though the Centre will remain open for specific hours, efforts are currently underway to scale up to 7 days a week.
The Warming Centre opened for the cold weather emergency last night at 8 p.m. and is still open. The Centre will be available tonight and Tuesday night. The opening hours are 8 p.m. to midnight for drop-in, and 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for a limited overnight rest area. During the day tomorrow, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m, as it was today, according to those working closely with the centre.
In the future, the Warming Centre will be open 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Home Base Housing has been tasked with trying to open an alternative “Warming and Counselling Centre.”
“We have been working on staff recruitment and orientation. We are finding it difficult to maintain existing emergency shelter operations, but the Program Supervisor, Jay Nowak, is making very good progress on the Warming and Counselling Centre. Staff are still in the orientation phase with a scheduled launch for January 14,” said Tom Greening, Executive Director Home Base Housing.
Greening also shared that, until a more permanent solution is worked out, Home Base Housing has put staffing in place so that the Warming Centre has been and can be open on cold weather days and nights as much as possible. Last night, the Centre sheltered 13 individuals from the cold weather outside.
“Our Street Outreach staff have also helped to keep the Centre open during the day. We will be open overnight and during the day for the next couple of nights, as well,” added Greening.
The Warming Centre will also connect clients with other community services and support agencies, including meals programs and community involvement projects.