Controversial Saint-Henri safe drug consumption site set to open

A safe injection site is being fought against by neighbours in Saint-Henri. Matilda Cerone / Global News

A transitional housing project and safe drug consumption site is set to open near a school in the Saint-Henri borough.

The Maison Benoît Labre offers 36 subsidized bedrooms to people experiencing homelessness.

For five years, tenants will be able to pay 25 per cent of their income, receive support and transition toward a more stable life.

“These types of projects, we are going to need a lot more of them in Montreal and all over Canada, because we are seeing a rise in people who are living in chronic homelessness,” city councillor Craig Sauvé says.

Equally remarkable, according to advocates, is the safe consumption site downstairs. It will be Montreal’s first safe inhalation centre. It also offers food and showers.

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The site has sparked controversy, because it is located next to a school and park.

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A coalition of parents, residents and merchants has been fighting against having the centre in the area.

In response to the complaints, a “good neighbour” committee was formed that includes residents, staff, police and other stakeholders.

The committee meets around every three weeks. So far, it has led the city to fund the construction of higher fences and the project’s staff to clean the park daily before children arrive.

Police are working closely with housing staff to help them prepare for situations that could arise. So far, they are not concerned.

“We need to act on facts,” local police station commander Jonathan Chase says. “We don’t want to put too much energy here if it’s not necessary — we want to adjust in function of what’s going on.”

The project’s staff believe this cohabition could be mutually beneficial. As Maison Benoît Labre executive director Andréane Desilets says, “residents have access to meet with parents, so humans talking with humans, which is part of (the overall project).”

Parents who are part of the coalition did not want to speak about recent developments.

The centre will open on April 15.

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