Will Montreal’s West Island get a homeless shelter amid growing demand?

Click to play video: 'West Island’s hidden homeless'
West Island’s hidden homeless
WATCH: Several non-profit organizations are sounding the alarm over the growing problem of homelessness in Montreal's West Island. As Global's Tim Sargeant explains, there is a need for a homeless shelter in an area that has always been associated with affluence – Feb 11, 2019

An old abandoned restaurant could be transformed into a new shelter for the homeless in Montreal’s West Island.

Tania Charron, the executive director of Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’Île (AJOI), says the place located on Gouin Boulevard West in Pierrefonds-Roxboro could serve as a hybrid housing centre — a mix of social housing for low-income earners and a shelter with emergency beds for overnight accommodation.

“We want to start with only four beds just to start and then see from there what are the real needs,” Charron told Global News.

READ MORE: New documentary shines light on hidden issue of food insecurity in West Island

Charron estimates there are between 150 to 200 homeless people in the West Island but they don’t live on the streets. They are commonly referred to as the “hidden homeless.”

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“Not all are sleeping on the streets but they’re living with their friend of they’re about to lose their apartment,” Charron said.

In Montreal, shelters are full and the shuttles that pick people up and bring them to overnight beds don’t serve the West Island.

Benoit Langevin, a Montreal city councillor who represents the district of Bois-de-Liesse in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, insists it’s long overdue for city officials to take action and help the most vulnerable in the West Island.

“I think it’s time we start investing. We’ve been vocal, we’ve been saying it,” he said.

A study is now being conducted by West Island public health officials to look into all the needs for the most vulnerable people in the expansive area.

READ MORE: Parks Canada discovers homeless community living by the Lachine Canal

The commissioner for Montreal homelessness told Global News it’s premature to conclude that a single shelter in the West Island is the solution.

“It’s a big territory,” Serge Lareault told Global News.

“You have a few homeless in many cities and I’m not sure if you build a shelter in one borough, in one area, that will cover all the needs.”

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The study should be completed by the end of March.

Charron said she hopes a new shelter for the West Island will be included in its recommendations.

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