Winter can be extremely difficult for people who live on the street in Montreal.
“It’s deadly,” said Raymond Lalonde, for whom homeless life could become a reality very soon.
“I have a room, but the owner is kicking me out at the end of the month.”
Lalonde was one of several hundred people who attended the annual Fête des Rois event at Accueil Bonneau, an organization that supports the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. The event lifted Lalonde’s spirits and gave some relief to those living outdoors during the extreme cold over the weekend.
“I came for the meal but I stay for the hospitality,” Lalonde said.
Aline Bourcier, who handles programs and services at the organization, is proud of the number of volunteers who joined the event.
“Acceuil Bonneau has been celebrating the Fête des Rois for almost 143 years,” she told Global News. “It’s a special day. The guys come down and have a hot meal.”
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While the event provided relief to Montreal’s homeless, it also reminded the public about the problem of homelessness in the city.
“After Christmas, people forget,” Bourcier explained. “(At) Christmas, they are doing a good deed, but after January, February, it’s a very hard time for (the homeless).”
With nighttime temperatures averaging around -18 C over the weekend, the city’s shelters — which have space for a total of 957 people — have been packed.
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There are plans to start using the old Royal Victoria hospital facility as an emergency shelter.
“We’re speaking about 80 beds so 40 women and 40 men,” explained Rosannie Filato, a member of Montreal’s executive committee responsible for homelessness.
The new shelter won’t be opened for another two days, but Lalonde welcomes the news.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “That’s a very good thing because people at least have another resource.”
The facility will be open just in time for the next cold snap, which is expected to start next weekend.