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Montreal homeless shelters face overcrowding

Click to play video 'Homeless shelters in Montreal nearly at full capacity' Homeless shelters in Montreal nearly at full capacity
WATCH: Montreal homeless shelters have their work cut out for them as temperatures drop. As Kwabena Orduro reports, even the old Royal Victoria Hospital which was set up to serve as an overflow shelter is nearing maximum capacity – Jan 17, 2020

The Old Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal has doubled the number of beds available in its second consecutive year of operation as an emergency shelter for the homeless, but it’s only supposed to serve as an emergency shelter.

Last year, the shelter had 80 beds. That number has gone up to 150 beds this year. The shelter is receiving about 130 to 140 people on a nightly basis, reaching close to its capacity.

“The answer isn’t more shelter beds, the answer is more housing. It’s unacceptable [that] in 2020 people [are] living on the streets in Montreal,” said Sam Watts, CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission.
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READ MORE: Old Royal Victoria Hospital converted to emergency homeless shelter

Watts said they understand that a shelter is not the answer nor is it the solution — it’s necessary.

The old Royal Victoria Hospital has been able to help over 400 people since opening in 2019. Meanwhile, the Old Brewery Mission is facing overcrowding issues.

“We are over capacity every night. Not just in the winter but other times in the year. Of course in winter it’s more critical,” said Matthew Pearce, CEO of the Old Brewery Mission.

Watts said they understand that a shelter is not the answer nor is it the solution — it’s necessary.

“We haven’t really found a way to turn the tap off of people coming in,” added Watts.

Pearce said that overcrowding won’t stop them from serving those in need.

“If they get overfilled, they can open up a few more beds. But even if those get used up, and there’s still people coming to our doors, no one will get refused,” added Pearce.

READ MORE: Emergency shelter to open at old Royal Victoria Hospital for winter months

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Pearce said ending homelessness in Montreal is the ultimate goal, but that requires more than coordinating short-term places for people to stay.

“That means increasing affordable housing, providing the supports for people to be housed. It means bringing in partnerships with the health-care system. We’re not psychiatrists, we’re not doctors but these people need psychiatrists, they need doctors,” Pearce added.