As Toronto enters its coldest stretch of the winter season, the city has issued an extreme cold weather alert to encourage people to limit their exposure to icy temperatures.

The city issues alerts as a way to mobilize services to aid the homeless during spells of frigid weather.

In this case, the city issued the alert - the first of the season - ahead of a chilly night that will see temperatures drop to -13 C without the wind chill late Monday night and into early Tuesday morning.

Alerts are typically called in advance to give community agencies sufficient time to call in extra staff to provide enhanced services to the homeless, the city said in a news release.

Torontonians who see someone who is in need of assistance are asked to call 311, a non-emergency line. If it is an emergency, dial 911, the city said.

During an extreme cold weather alert, shelters relax service restrictions and 172 shelter spaces are added to the system to help the homeless to escape the cold.

If a bed is not available at a shelter, the facility is asked to allow the person to stay there until a bed is found elsewhere.

Street outreach workers patrol the downtown core to urge homeless people to go to a shelter or another warm place, and they offer a ride if the person agrees.

For a full list of Toronto shelters, click here.

As well, TTC tokens are available at some drop-ins so people can use public transit free-of-charge to travel to a shelter.

The city typically calls an extreme cold weather alert when Environment Canada predicts an overnight temperature of -15 C or lower, issues a wind chill warning and/or predicts extreme weather conditions such as a blizzard, ice storm or sudden drops in temperature.

As for public schools, recess may be shortened when the temperature and/or wind chill is between -20 C and -28 C, said Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird.

When the temperature and/or wind chill is -28 C or lower, children are kept indoors for recess due to the risk of frostbite, Bird told CP24.

Meanwhile, the cold weather is expected to persist through most of the week.

Environment Canada is predicting a high of -11 C on Tuesday and a high of -10 C on Wednesday, along with the possibility of flurries. Wednesday’s low will be -20 C without the wind chill.

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