Montreal prepares to help homeless population during cold snap
The mercury dipped so low on Wednesday it prompted extreme cold warnings across the country.
Montreal’s estimated 3,000 homeless are among those most vulnerable during such cold snaps.
The city and various local organizations are stepping up their efforts to help those in need this winter.
Some seeking shelter end up at the Welcome Hall Mission. They have about 220 beds available and operate at nearly full capacity on frigid days.
“We’re always on the phone with other people trying to figure out if there’s a bed anywhere, how we [can] help somebody, and we just make sure we stay open and we stay available,” Welcome Hall Mission CEO Sam Watts said.
“We put extra steps in place to make sure nobody is turned away.”
Even with the bitter cold, not everyone is keen on heading to a shelter.
Police have a special brigade working with the homeless, doing outreach work.
“We prepare the operation since autumn,” Montreal Police commander Jacinthe Gauthier said.
“We make a list of all the spaces and special places that can have homeless people… we try to convince them and take them to the shelters.”
The police are targeting public spaces like metro stations. The STM is letting those who need to stay inside, but come closing time, police try to ensure everyone has a place to go.
The City of Montreal announced earlier in December that it was investing almost $800,000 into emergency measures to help protect the homeless population during the cold.
Despite the efforts, numbers are still high.
“In this mission alone, we had 2,700 new clients in the course of 2017. So that’s not good news,” Watts said.
“The good news of course, is that there are 250 people who are living in apartments who used to live on the streets. So we’ve made progress as far as that goes.”
If you want to help those in need, Welcome Hall says the best thing you can do is convince someone to go to a shelter, where social workers can provide assistance.
The Montreal Police’s advice is to call 911 if you see anyone in distress.
They’re also encouraging store owners to be aware and understanding of those seeking shelter from the cold.