The chronic problem of Montreal’s homeless isn’t about to disappear, but shelters, health officials and the McGill University Health Centre are trying to make sure no one has to spend a night out in the cold.
The third floor of the Ross Pavilion of the old Royal Victoria Hospital has been converted into an emergency shelter for the winter.
A total of 80 beds for men and women will be available every night beginning Tuesday if Montreal’s existing shelters reach full capacity. Pets are also welcome.
“When all of the other shelters, all of the other resources in Montreal are full then we will have the opportunity to serve people who find themselves homeless and would like to have a place to sleep,” Sam Watts, CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission, told Global News.
The new shelter comes as a network of Montreal homeless shelters — including the Old Brewery Mission, the Welcome Hall Mission, Maison du Père and Accueil Bonneau — voiced concerns about overcrowding during the winter months.
In Montreal, Watts estimates there are more than 3,000 people without a fixed address.
Many of them spend cold nights on the streets when existing shelters run out of beds. Watts says the old Royal Vic is a temporary solution to help them sleep in a warm, dry and protected place.
“The solution to homelessness to really not to add emergency beds,” he said.
“The solution to the problem is to find ways of getting people quickly into apartments.”
The temporary shelter cost about $200,000 to build. The Quebec government is providing $150,000 and the city of Montreal is kicking in $50,000.
“We do everything in our capacity to not have anyone on the street,” Rosannie Filato, the Montreal executive committee member responsible for homelessness, told Global News.
Daniel Robillard has been living in the Old Brewery Mission for the last two and half months.
The 63-year-old doesn’t expect he will need a bed at the new shelter, but he thinks making it available is a smart move.
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“When you give help to somebody it’s always a good thing. I hope the people will appreciate it,” he said.
The shelter will remain open until April 15. Government officials, shelters and others will then reassess.