Matthew Pearce has been at the helm of the Old Brewery Mission for 10 years, significantly changing it for the better when he took it from a shelter to a full-service support centre.
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“It was already a realization the mission had. I don’t think they had a path clearly set, but they realized we’ve got to do better than we’re doing,” he told Global News.
His leadership has helped the Montreal organization transform itself; Pearce believes homelessness is a solvable social problem.
“We’re providing solutions to homelessness such that today, permanent housing is the single biggest service that the Old Brewery Mission is offering,” he said.
“That’s for people who used to be homeless, and they’re not homeless now because they have a home.”
After he realized that about 40 per cent of Montreal’s homeless population suffers from untreated mental health conditions, Pearce formed a partnership with psychiatrists and social workers at the Douglas Hospital, as well as the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM).
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“We’re seeing miracles, we’re seeing people who otherwise would languish in homelessness who after a week or two of stabilization are ready to move on,” he said.
Following several incidents when homeless men were killed by police, Pearce decided to take charge.
“We’re training the police now — not just the police, but the recruits,” he pointed out.
“I think were introducing new ideas to the city and increasingly across Canada and we’re having an impact so that’s hugely rewarding to me.”
Pearce says the biggest reward is seeing the beds at the Old Brewery Mission empty out.
“We saw something this winter that we have never seen before — that even during the coldest times of the year we had empty beds. That’s never happened before,” he told Global News.
“That’s a sign we’re on the right track.”
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