01/06/2018 17:58 EST | Updated 01/06/2018 19:59 EST

Toronto Opens Armoury As Temporary Homeless Shelter From Extreme Cold

The facility will have 100 cots available.

Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press
The Moss Park Armoury in Toronto on Friday.

TORONTO — Officials say a downtown armoury will open to Toronto's homeless Saturday evening as the city faces a 13th day with an extreme cold alert in effect.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Friday that the armoury would be opened as a temporary homeless shelter for two weeks following a request from the city as it sought more shelter space.

The facility, just on the eastern edge of the downtown core, is close to a supervised injection site and near other shelters where scores of people seek refuge every day, but was not expected to open until Monday.

Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press
Bill Behse and Caitlin Mollar of the Canadian Red Cross itemize an emergency shelter unit at the Regent Park Community Centre in Toronto on Friday.

The city says the Moss Park Armoury will provide 100 cots in response to unprecedented demand and the continuing extreme weather conditions.

The City has also increased the capacity at the Better Living Centre to 200 cots and added an additional 80 cots at a community centre.

It has also added an overnight shift for at least four street outreach teams during extreme cold weather alerts.

"We are dedicated to meeting the needs of our city's most vulnerable,'' said Mayor John Tory. "I want to extend my sincere appreciation to city staff for this extraordinary response to address this urgent situation.''

'Relentless' cold

Tory called the cold conditions "relentless'' and said the increased demand for additional homelessness supports is "unprecedented.''

City staff gained access to the federally owned armoury on Saturday morning and immediately began retrofitting the facility, which will be available as a winter respite location around the clock for two weeks.

When fully operational, services will include access to meals, showers, hygiene kits and referrals to additional supports such as case management and housing supports.

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