Health Topics

Cold Alerts & Community Response

The Medical Officer of Health for the City of Hamilton issues a Cold Alert when:

  • The temperature drops, or is expected to drop below -15°C (5°F)
  • The temperature feels like -20°C (-4°F) with wind chill

Wind chill is important because no matter what the thermometer says, the wind makes it feel colder. The stronger the wind, the colder you will feel and the higher the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

What to do during a Cold Alert

The best place for you during a Cold Alert is indoors.  If you must be outside during a Cold Alert:

  • Dress in layers of clothing. Keep inner layers dry. Wet clothing increases the risk of cold injury.
  • Protect you face, ears and hands with a scarf, hat, and gloves
  • To protect your feet, socks must be dry. Wool is a good material to keep your feet dry.
  • Drink warm fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid strenuous exercise

Community Cold Response

A Cold Alert triggers a Community Cold Response, which is put into effect by a number of community agencies as well as the City of Hamilton. When a Cold Alert is called, there is a focus on promoting access to safe and warm shelter to those on the street and for individuals living in vulnerable conditions with limited heat.  During a Cold Alert:

  • Residents should check on neighbours who may be at risk to make sure they have heat.
  • Select City of Hamilton Recreation centres are open from 12 noon to 7 pm for warmth.
  • Recreation staff have shelter information if shelter is needed.
  • Community drop-in programs and other support services  are available so people can  access a warm place.
  • Salvation Army supports this effort by:
    • Partnering with local organizations who can help people access shelter.
    • Triages calls from the public about people on the street who may need shelter.
    • Monitoring shelter space and availability.

Resident concerns about an individual on the street who may require shelter, should be directed to the Salvation Army at 905-527-1444 ext 0.
Resident questions about the Community Cold Response may be directed to City of Hamilton Customer Service at 905-546-2489.
If you observe someone you feel is in imminent danger, please contact emergency services at 911.

Hamilton’s Heat By-law No. 04-091 requires landlords to keep the air temperature of at least 20°C in all liveable spaces between September 1 and May 31. If someone’s rented unit is not being kept at this temperature, they may file a complaint unless the lack of heat is caused from the failure of a tenant to pay for the service which is part of their tenancy agreement.

Municipal Law Enforcement
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Phone: 905 546-2782 or after hours 905-546-2489

City of Hamilton Warming Centres

During a Cold Alert select City of Hamilton Recreation Centres will be available as community warming centres.

To protect residents, COVID-19 precautions remain in place for all sites:

  • Reduced capacity of a maximum of 10 people to promote physical distancing consistent with provincial rules.
  • Name and contact information will be requested
  • Screening for COVID-19 symptoms will occur
  • Wear a face covering or mask at these locations

The following City of Hamilton Recreation Centres will be available as warming centres from 12 noon to 7 pm during a Cold Alert.


Good Shepherd Family Centre
​Housing focused shelter and support for families experiencing homelessness. Interpretation services are available upon request.
143 Wentworth Street South, Hamilton, Ontario  L8N 2Z1
Phone: 905-528-5877

Good Shepherd Centre
135 Mary Street, Hamilton, Ontario L8R 1K4
Phone: 905-528-9109

Mission Services Men's Residence
325 James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario L8L 1H3
Phone: 905-528-7635

Salvation Army Booth Centre
94 York Boulevard, Hamilton, Ontario L8R 1R6
Phone: 905-527-1444

Interval House Hamilton
A transition house for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Provides meals, emergency clothing and personal needs, 7 days a week.
630 Sanatorium Road, Hamilton, Ontario L9C 7S7
Phone: (crisis line) 905-387-8881 | (business line) 905-387-9959

Good Shepherd Martha House
Emergency shelter specializing in the care of victims of domestic violence. A 28 bed security-equipped transition house for women and children in crisis.
25 Ray Street North, Hamilton, Ontario L8R 2X5
Phone: 905-523-6277 | 905-523-8895

Good Shepherd Mary's Place
20 Pearl Street North, Hamilton, Ontario L8R 2Y8
Phone: (crisis line) 905-523-6277 | (business line) 905-540-8000

Native Women's Centre
Provides safe emergency shelter for all women regardless of age, ancestry, culture, place of origin or sexual orientation, with or without children, who are experiencing a crisis in their lives due to family violence, homelessness, or conflict with the law.
Phone: 905-664-1114

Inasmuch House
Emergency shelter for abused and homeless women and their children, as well as female teenagers over the age of 16.
Phone: (crisis line) 905-529-8600 | (business line) 905-529-8149

Womankind Withdrawal Management Program
Emergency shelter for single women and addiction support
Phone: 905-521-9591

Notre Dame House
There are 11 beds available for males and 9 beds available for females. Laundry facilities and meals are provided. Additional services are provided through their resource centre from 9 to 5 pm daily. These include school, employment counselling, addictions counselling, public health nurse.
14 Cannon Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8R 2B2
Phone: 905-308-8090

Community Warm Places

This season select community agencies are offering warm places as drop-in during cold alerts. To protect residents, Covid-19 precautions will be in place for all sites. Community Warm Place hours and days vary, capacity limits apply.

Carol Annes Place - YWCA (Women Only)
75 MacNab Street South, Hamilton, Ontario L8P 3C1
Hours of operation: 10 pm to 8 am
Overnight access for women, open 7 days a week. Limited capacity. First come, first served.
Phone: 905-517-9326 (phones answered between 10 pm and 12 noon)

Hamilton Out of the Cold
Immanuel Christian Reformed Church
61 Mohawk Road West, Hamilton, Ontario L9C 1V9
Hours of operation: Monday, Dinner at 3:30 to 4:30 pm

Hamilton Out of the Cold
Erskine Presbyterian Church
19 Pearl Street North, Hamilton, Ontario L8R 2Y6
Hours of operation:  Wednesdays, Dinner served from 3:30 to 4:30 pm

Hamilton Out of the Cold
Central Presbyterian Church
165 Charlton Ave W, Hamilton, Ontario
Hours of operation: Thursday 2 pm to 4 pm

Hamilton Public Library
These locations will be open as warming centres: Central, Dundas, Kenilworth, Red Hill, Sherwood, Terryberry, Turner Park and Waterdown. 

Hours of operation:
Tuesday to Friday: 10 am to 6 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm.

  • No computer access.
  • Visits may be limited to two (2) hours, depending on branch capacity.
  • No food or drink is permitted, to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Masks required; all health protocols followed.
  • Capacity limits apply.

Living Rock Youth Resources (youth ages 13-25)
30 Wilson Street, Hamilton, Ontario, L8R 1C5
Hours of operation: open 7 days a week for various drop in programs, meals, groceries, hygiene products,  shower access.
Offers drop-in programs daily from 1 to 4 pm.
Phone: 905-528-7625 (ROCK)

Mission Services Willow’s Place (Women only)
196 Wentworth Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
Hours of operation: 9 am to 8:30 pm
Phone: 905-528-5100 Ext 1200

The Hub
78 Vine Street, Hamilton, ON (at Vine and Park)
Hours of operation: Daily from 5 pm to 9 pm
Services: food and drinks , hygiene or washroom access but expanded to service referrals, harm reduction supplies, winter gear and many other valuable services.

Wesley Day Centre
52 Catherine Street North, Hamilton, ON  
Phone: 905-528-5640 ext. 195
Hours of operation:

  • Monday-Friday: 8:30 am to 4 pm | 5 to 9 pm
  • Saturday: 8:30 am to 1:30 pm
  • Sunday: 1 to 5 pm

Offers a drop-in centre for individuals 22 years of age and older

  • Bagged meals are provided for breakfast and lunch
  • Shower facilities are available, as well as personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo and toothbrushes
  • Staff offer advocacy, counselling and referral services

Cold-related illnesses & health effects from cold weather

Having certain medical conditions such as diabetes, taking some prescription drugs or drinking alcohol will increase your risk of cold temperature related health issues like frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite happens when skin and other tissues are damaged due to freezing. Frostbite usually occurs on fingers, toes, earlobes, nose or your face. 

Signs of frostbite or frostnip (the first stage of frostbite) include:

  • White skin that has a “wooden feeling”
  • Numbness in the affected area such as fingertips

If you see these signs, get inside to a warm place.

The risk of frostbite relates to temperature and wind on exposed skin. When the temperature is above -28°C, there is a low risk of frostbite.

Hypothermia is where your body’s core temperature drops below what is needed for normal body function. Normal body core temperature is around 37°C. 

Hypothermia affects muscle function and the ability to think clearly. Symptoms include stumbling, mumbling, fumbling and grumbling. 

Factors that can contribute to hypothermia include:

  • Cold temperatures
  • Clothes that do not fit properly
  • Damp or wet clothing
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Insufficient food intake
  • Alcohol intake
  • Some medications

Most people can safely tolerate mild hypothermia, where the body temperature drops to 32° to 35°C. There is a 21% chance of death if you have moderate hypothermia, where the core body temperature is 29° to 32°C. A body core temperature of 28°C or less is severe hypothermia and death occurs within a short period.

It is possible to get hypothermia at temperatures warmer than -15°C. Hypothermia at higher temperatures is usually related to sports or accidents such as getting lost while hiking where there is not enough food or adequate overnight clothing.