MONTREAL–The city of Montreal has announced it will go ahead with its five-year plan to create a full-time advocate for the homeless.
Jennifer Kirby has been volunteering at the Moisson Montreal’s Christmas Harvest event for years.
“Every single basket that we’re going to do today represents a family in need,” said Kirby.
“Sometimes people only need it for a moment in time. It doesn’t mean they’re going to need it forever.”
For people who have been homeless for an extended period of time, that reality can be difficult to achieve.
It’s why the municipal initiative is looking to reduce the need of emergency services like Moisson Montreal‘s baskets in the city.
“Of course there is a need for an emergency plan, but at the same time we have to think on the mid-term and long-term,” said Mayor Denis Coderre.
And in order to do that, Coderre has decided to focus on getting rid of chronic homelessness by creating what he calls a “protector,” someone out on the streets helping the homeless with different issues.
“Everything from food safety to housing, to how to get a job, to accompany them when they are suffering from mental illness,” Coderre explained.
This position is in response to the Movement To End Homelessness in Montreal‘s (MMFIM) proposal back in 2014. The movement is a coalition that brings the city, police and shelters together.
“The plan is to focus on the 2,000 chronic and episodic people in Montreal,” said James McGregor the movement’s general manager. “They’re the hardest people to help, they’ve been on the street for years.”
McGregor says this program will have an impact on the use of emergency services.
“Ten per cent of the homeless people consume 50 or 60 per cent of the services such as shelters, ambulance calls, police calls and hospital emergencies,” said McGregor.
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Part of the program has already been rolled out. An intake centre is now in operation at the Old Brewery Mission and is only one of many centres to come.
“We do not think that in a city like Montreal there should be people who spend months and years in homelessness or in our shelters,” said the Old Brewery Mission’s president Matthew Pearce.
“We think we can change that, we’re on the road to changing that.”
The city is now accepting resumes for the protector position and is hoping to fill it by the spring.