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In intense cold, Parks Canada discovers homeless community living by the Lachine Canal

WATCH: With the current cold spell, homeless shelters in Montreal have been operating at or near capacity, with the city even opening an emergency shelter to deal with the overflow. But as Global’s Billy Shields reports, there are still many people sleeping on the street.

Lauren Small is the director of Quebec waterways for Parks Canada.

On Thursday afternoon, she was doing a site inspection in the Peel Basin, near where a REM light-rail train station is slated to be built.

At around 2 p.m., she discovered that a nearby overpass was housing a group of at least a half-dozen homeless people.

“I’m assuming they were there because it was quite windy yesterday,” she said. “I think they probably took refuge in a place where there would be less wind.”

Small said she called police, who relocated the people living under the overpass to a shelter.

At least some of those people came back to the site by Friday.

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WATCH: How an emergency shelter is helping Montreal’s homeless come in from the cold

How an emergency shelter is helping Montreal’s homeless come in from the cold
How an emergency shelter is helping Montreal’s homeless come in from the cold

One man, who gave his name only as “Richard,” said he had been sleeping in the area for about 20 years, and that he didn’t want to go to a shelter.

“You get sick when you go there. Everybody’s sick there. I don’t want to go there I prefer to sleep outside,” he said.

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When asked how he dealt with the cold, he pointed to layers and layers of blankets.

WATCH: From homelessness to academia

From homelessness to academia
From homelessness to academia
When asked what he does if the cold gets too intense, he said simply “there’s a McDonald’s here, there’s a Tim Horton’s there, there are all kinds of places [to go].”

According to Matthew Pearce, the CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, trying to convince people living on the street to come in from the cold is not an uncommon dilemma.

“It’s one of the trickiest aspects of homelessness,” he said. “They have learned to survive.”

The city’s four largest shelters — including the Mission — are operating an overflow night shelter at the site of the old Royal Victoria Hospital near McGill University.

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