Held Sunday, Jan. 12, Accueil Bonneau’s annual Dîner des rois was held to
lift the spirits of some of their homeless or at-risk clients.
“It’s a special day like Christmas,” smiled client Pierre Milot, who has been attending the event for seven years.
Just over 400 people attended this year, most of them men. It’s a tradition that organizers say goes back more than 140 years, typically held right after the holidays.
“At Christmas there is a lot of people that are very generous and are giving food and clothes,” explained Dany Depatie, Accueil Bonneau’s interim general manager.
But come January, she said, people tend to forget about the homeless.
“So we want something special and say to them that we know that they are there,” she added.
Organizers say it’s also meant to remind the public of the issue of homeless, and of the places that support people on the street and need help.
Homelessness, she says, is growing.
“Just in Montreal, they’re saying that there’s at least 3,000 people living in the street,” Depatie said.
“And that’s just the people that we were able to see.”
Mayor Valérie Plante, who met some of the clients during the event, told Global News that the problem is complex and needs more than shelters.
“When you think about homelessness, it’s often related to poverty and mental health,” she explained.
“We need to think about why is there more and more people on the street, people being hungry, people not being able to pay their rent. It’s because there’s more poverty.”
She stressed that the issue requires the attention of all levels of government.
In the meantime, workers at Accueil Bnneau say it’s a struggle.
“We don’t have enough,” Depatie pointed out. “It’s always a question of having money from the government or the people to give all the services.”
The priority now, she maintained, is to make sure that those who need help are, in fact, getting it.