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Montreal shelter left scrambling without new location, forcing almost 50 people to the street

Click to play video: 'Dozens out on the street as a Montreal shelter in Pierrefonds closes and scrambles for new location'
Dozens out on the street as a Montreal shelter in Pierrefonds closes and scrambles for new location
A crucial lifeline for people experiencing homelessness in Montreal's Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough is closing its doors. The Ricochet overnight shelter is left scrambling looking for a new location, and as Gloria Henriquez reports, dozens of people will be out on the streets – May 29, 2024

Montreal’s Ricochet emergency overnight shelter for people experiencing homelessness is being forced to close its doors this week, cutting off its services to about 50 vulnerable people.

The announcement comes after years of relocation plans in the works. The shelter began looking for a new space in 2021 after the owner terminated the lease. They eventually found a new space by the end of 2023 which required major renovations that were expected to last six to 12 months.

They found a temporary space to set up while their new building was being renovated, but that plan came crumbling down in recent weeks upon the discovery that the new structure was too contaminated to move in.

By the end of May, the shelter had to close its doors, with nowhere to go as it scrambled to find a new space.

Louis Rouillard has been living at the Ricochet emergency overnight shelter for two years. He will be forced to return living on the streets of Montreal as the service closes its doors with no immediate relocation planned. Gloria Henriquez/Global News

“Despite our sustained efforts and the support of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough and the City of Montreal, we have not yet found a space that meets the necessary standards to accommodate our beneficiaries,” Ricochet said in a statement. “Until we find a temporary solution, we are unfortunately forced to close.”

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The services offered include beds, showers, meals and other social reintegration support.

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Global spoke with Louis Rouillard, a man who has been living at Ricochet for two years.

“With the trees and the birds, it’s so good for you when you’re in pain,” he said, describing the place. Before settling there, Rouillard was living on the streets, and he says that as of now he is homeless again.

Ricochet gave Rouillard and dozens of others who were using the service survival kits as they left the shelter, which is the only one in the area.

Rouillard told Global his backpack, tent, sleeping bag and ukulele are all he owns.

“You don’t know how hard it is,” he said.

Movers are seen removing furniture from Ricochet emergency overnight shelter as the service closes its doors. Gloria Henriquez/Global News

Tania Charron, executive director of Rocochet, said her team, the borough and the City of Montreal had been working to find a new temporary place before the end of the lease for months. They finally thought they had a safe plan when the city offered up one of its vacant buildings until the news of its contamination.

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“I was crushed. I was crushed,” Charron said.

The organization started as a warming centre back in 2020 and soon expanded to respond to the high demand in the area.

City councillor Benoit Langevin said the city needs to better plan to ensure shelters don’t close and leave people in the lurch, adding that he’s seen this happen with several other shelters across the city.

The City of Montreal told Global it will meet with the local health authority and Quebec’s minister for social services to find an alternative solution.

Ricochet is also appealing to the public to help them find a temporary location.

— with files from Gloria Henriquez, Global News

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