Ontario in deep freeze

As most of Ontario endures an extreme cold snap, with some areas seeing wind chill values as low as -30 C, various groups and shelters are increasing their services to help the homeless stay warm.

Environment Canada issued an extreme cold warning for nearly the entire province, warning that the bitterly cold temperatures can cause frostbite within minutes, and those without proper shelter are the most vulnerable.

Some shelters across Ontario are operating at or above capacity, and warming centres have been opened to offer a space for those with nowhere else to go.

On Saturday night, an additional 35 spaces were created at a warming centre in Toronto, and a spokesman for the city said a new women's shelter is opening on Monday.

In the meantime, a volunteer group is hoping to assist Torontonians on the street that can't or won't stay in a shelter.

Jody Steinhauer, executive director of Project Winter Survival, said this year the organization has fielded the largest number of requests for survival kits in its 20-year history.

She said more than 21,000 kits have been requested — a 60 per cent increase from last year — as there is an increasing need for the food, clothing and hygiene products the kits provide.

"The numbers are just staggering," said Steinhauer.

She said volunteers got together on Saturday to put together about 3,000 kits, but the group doesn't have enough money to afford assembling the remaining kits so they will have to hold a fundraiser.

"This is about stopping people from freezing to death," said Steinhauer, adding that she hopes the additional kits can be packaged soon as the extreme cold weather continues.

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