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Answers sought in homeless warming breakdown

In the wake of the breakdown in warming services for homeless persons that occurred over Christmas, Mayor Andrea Horwath has announced she will be seeking a review of the policy. She tweeted: “On December 24th, there was a service gap for unhoused Hamiltonians during extremely cold weather. Council just recently approved funding of $125,000 for overnight warming centres, to offer emergency cold weather supports, but alarmingly, a gap in supports occurred. I will be seeking a full review of the City’s Cold Alert and community response protocol so that this does not happen again.”

The Mayor’s announcement comes after it was learned that the city’s warming centres were closing at 4 PM December 23 in the midst of the worst severe wind and freezing temperatures of the year, and that an emergency overnight warming centre would not open until 10 pm leaving homeless persons to fend for themselves in the cold for six hours.

Things got worse the next day when the cold alert was lifted because the temperatures and wind chill had inched above the threshold set for cancellation of the alert. That resulted in the automatic cancellation of the contract to house people in the Hub on Vine Street. Luckily the Hamilton Community Benefits network, supported by private donations was able to come up with the funds to open the warming centre.

The snafu triggered a batch of social media posts from residents wondering how the system could not be available on the night when it was most needed. One poster noted seeing people huddled in the MacNab Street pedestrian tunnel trying to warm themselves with a fire.

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