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Building a new life, with support at the Old Brewery Mission’s Lise Watier Pavillion

WATCH: The Old Brewery Mission has a new way to help Montrealers get off the streets. As Global's Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports, the Lise Watier Pavillon offers an affordable and safe place where women can rebuild their lives.

Maggie Neufeld has spent the last seven years trying to get her life back together.

“I had a different life. I had children, a job, travelled all over the world, then I ran into my second husband and a had a situation with conjugal violence,” Neufeld said.

She moved, started over, and found a place in Verdun that she could afford alone. But then Neufeld faced what many vulnerable people do in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood. She found herself living in a building that needs work and an owner who sees an opportunity not only to fix up the building, but also update tenants and boost the rent.

“The landlord gave me an eviction notice. He said he was allowed in order to do renovations,” Neufeld said.

Rent went from $475 to $1,150 per month. A lawyer moved in, and a cash-strapped Neufeld didn’t have the resources for a moving truck.

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“I lost everything, within a couple of months.”

After a brief time at a shelter, Neufeld ended up at the Lise Watier Pavillion, where she has been for the last five years.

Residents Maggie Neufeld and Shoshan Chittspattio prepare a meal at the Lise Watier Pavilion.
Residents Maggie Neufeld and Shoshan Chittspattio prepare a meal at the Lise Watier Pavilion.
Residents in the common room at the Lise Watier Pavilion.
Residents in the common room at the Lise Watier Pavilion.
Resident taking a musical break at the Lise Watier Pavilion
Resident taking a musical break at the Lise Watier Pavilion
Lise Watier Pavilion
Lise Watier Pavilion

Twenty-nine women live on the site. There they share communal rooms, a kitchen, a reading nook, a piano and lots of plants to care for.

“Our objective is to get them ready for more independent social housing,” said social housing coordinator, Nicole Graffe.

The women pay rent, take part in group activities and have access to support staff and counsellors on site.

“We feel like a family. If they need our help filling out paperwork and guidance with life skills, we are there,” Graffe said.

READ MORE: Montrealers put their privilege aside to raise money for Dans la rue

The hybrid shelter and social housing pavilion is roomy, airy and feels more like a Home Sense showroom, than a government supported home.

Residents Global News spoke to say they are happy to have a place where they can rebuild their lives with dignity.

“I am lucky, blessed, to have a place of my own, because I never did,” said¬†Shoshan Chittspattio.

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Chittspattio has been living at the Pavilion for the past two years. She struggles with her health and has to undergo dialysis three times a week. But she makes an extra effort to take part in the community activities at the Pavilion.

“I just like to stay positive and participate. It is not easy when you’re coming from the streets. It took me a while to realize I have a home.”

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