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.
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.
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