Montreal to open homeless shelter with supervised alcohol consumption in 2021

The former Royal Victoria Hospital will house the pilot project. Dan Spector / Global News

A pilot project will begin next year to provide a supervised alcohol consumption service for Montrealers experiencing homelessness.

The centre will open in January 2021 at the site of the Old Royal Victoria Hospital. So-called wet shelters permit clients to consume alcohol under supervision, with the aim of gradually reducing their dependence on alcohol.

Sonia Bélanger, head of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, addressed the new initiative on Wednesday during a press conference about the progression of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“With this alcohol management program, homeless people with severe alcohol problems can get help managing their consumption in a safe place,” she said, adding access to the shelter will only be accessible for clients without a fixed address.

READ MORE: Temporary winter shelter for homeless to open in the West Island

The pilot project comes after the city and the Quebec government announced funding for the centre in October 2019 as part of a larger plan to fight homelessness.

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In Montreal, most shelters are strictly dry, but wet shelters don’t turn away clients who are dependent on alcohol. The initiative is meant to put a focus on harm reduction, similar to supervised drug injection sites.

Bélanger said the goal of the pilot project, which is a collaboration between the city, province and the Old Brewery Mission, is to meet the needs of all homeless people.

“This is a first for Montreal but this service has been used effectively across Canada. Our intention is to open other sites later.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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