As temperatures continue to drop, many Montreal homeless shelters are struggling to keep up.
Although it may not be winter on the calendar, many shelters are at or over capacity during the cold nights.
Old Mission Brewery president and CEO Matthew Pearce said it has been over capacity for the last few months since the cold snap in November.
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“We would put down mattresses on the floor of the cafeteria and we would have about 80 people lined up throughout the night,” Pearce said.
“It was inhumane and unhygienic.”
A network of Montreal homeless shelters, including the Old Brewery Mission, The Welcome Hall Mission, Maison du Père and Accueil Bonneau, have pushed for a solution.
“We told the government and the city we can’t keep doing this,” Pearce said. “We need a separate space in winter to house the overflow.”
In partnership with the city and spearheaded by the four community groups, a new emergency shelter will be made available.
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The new shelter will make 80 beds available which will accommodate all in need, including men, women and pets.
The four organizing shelters will delegate tasks amongst them to operate the emergency shelter.
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The site for the shelter has not yet been chosen. The city is considering several options but one at the top of the list is the Old Royal Victoria Hospital.
“For now, I think it is the most realistic,” said Rosannie Filato, member of Montreal’s executive committee. “We have used it before as an emergency shelter so we know that it is possible. Now it’s just a question of conception and how it will get done.”
The shelters and the city hope to finalize the location of the emergency shelter in the coming weeks. They expect to have it up and running in the new year.
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Many shelter organizers are proud of the news and see it as a solution to bring the homeless in for the winter but they are not expecting it to be a permanent solution.
“The more a city builds its emergency networks, the more it pushes towards using them,” said Samuel Watts, Welcome Home Mission CEO and executive director.
“The real solution,” Pearce added, “is to get people out of homelessness not adding beds to keep them homeless.”