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Portable toilets installed to help West Island homeless population amid coronavirus pandemic

The newly installed portable toilets will allow homeless residents to access sanitation facilities.
The newly installed portable toilets will allow homeless residents to access sanitation facilities. Sylvain Trudeau

New sanitation facilities have been installed in Montreal to help the West Island homeless population amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Chemical toilets equipped with sinks and soap are now open to the public in Pierrefonds-Roxboro. The portable toilets are situated near the Gerry-Robertson Community Centre in front of the Sunnybrooke train station.

A second restroom has also been installed near the adjacent D’À-Ma-Baie park.

According to Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest de l’Île (AJOI), a local outreach group, lavatories will be installed in certain boroughs and cities throughout the West Island territory to provide proper hygiene for the city’s most vulnerable.

The installation is being done in a partnership involving the City of Montreal, the Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes à Montréal (RAPSIM) and the local West Island health authority, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-del’Île.

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The announcement comes three weeks after the City of Montreal installed similar facilities in parks and public areas around the downtown core, as well as in Lachine and Hochelaga.

AJOI said the city was slow to take action in making sanitation facilities available.

“They should have come sooner,” AJOI director-general Tania Charron said.

While the issue of homelessness is not as prominent in the West Island as it is in the city centre, Charron says safety concerns remain a serious issue during the coronavirus pandemic.

With businesses closed, the homeless have nowhere to go to access sanitation facilities.

The newly installed portable toilets will also allow them to wash their hands more frequently.

“There is a lot of people struggling downtown, and it is a crisis situation,” Charron said.

“But humans are humans. We have vulnerable people here having needs, and we need to answer those needs.”

READ MORE: Montreal shelter organizations call on province for more financial aid during crisis

In recent weeks, AJOI says it has seen an increase in the volume of calls concerning the problem of homelessness.

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Charron says AJOI no longer refers people to resources like community groups off the island because of regional travel restrictions.

“We have seen makeshift camps, people living in sheds and solariums, and they have no access to bathrooms,” Charron said.

AJOI says it has identified five places in the West Island where the situation had become “problematic,” with Charron describing the public spaces as “open toilets.”

“This will really help these people during this difficult time,” Charron said.

Global News reached out to both the city and the borough for comment but did not hear back by publication.