With winter at our doorstep, the City of Montreal says it is prepared to help those who suffer the most when it’s cold outside: people without a roof over their heads.
The city and the province unveiled their new emergency winter measures during a press conference on Thursday, saying they’re doubling up resources this year by offering 700 new beds across the city.
“There is place for everybody right now,” said Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.
Place Dupuis, a hotel located downtown Montreal near Berri-UQAM station, will offer 380 overnight spots during the winter season.
The city has also partnered with the STM to provide six shuttle services.
A day centre will be set up in the Old Port where people can warm up and get a meal.
Nine warming centres will also open up across the city.
“Usually there is two or three (warming centres) downtown, now we have them all over the city,” said Lionel Carmant, the province’s junior health minister.
“Because of COVID we’ve seen homelessness outside of where we usually see it.”
The news comes as the city is dealing with a housing crisis, with the numbers of people living in tent cities across the city growing.
“We are not going to use force, the idea is not to make people even more vulnerable, but we do have to steer them towards resources,” said Plante when asked if people would be allowed to remain in the homeless camps.
“I think it wouldn’t be reasonable or acceptable to let people sleep out in the cold.”
Announcement of the new measures is welcome news for homeless advocates who say it’s a step in the right direction — but they say something more permanent needs to be done.
“What does somebody who doesn’t have an apartment or a house need right now? They need permanent housing. They don’t need a temporary measure, they don’t need a mattress on a floor somewhere,” said Sam Watts, CEO and executive director of the Welcome Hall Mission.
“I’m convinced that in Montreal, in Canada in 2020, 2021 we are quite capable of making that happen.”
In August, the city opened three new temporary shelters capable of housing 300 people that will be in place until March 31:
- The site of the old Royal Victoria hospital, which features about 200 beds available 24/7;
- The Complexe Guy-Favreau downtown with 50 beds specifically for Indigenous and Inuit communities;
- And the former YMCA in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, which opened 65 beds.
The new additional measures will be in place as of mid-November until the end of next March. The province, along with the city, is studying what to do next.
“What we want is to find a roof for everyone and we’re working towards that,” the minister said.
Benoît Langevin, official opposition spokesperson for homelessness and youth at the City of Montreal, said the announcement was good news but he was expecting more targeted measures.
“The native community is eagerly awaiting for special measures as welll; the situation is untenable at Square-Cabot,” said Langevin.
Officials said an announcement specific to the Indigenous community is also coming.
The measures will cost $5 million, which will be provided through a combination of provincial and federal funds.
— With files from Global’s Dan Spector