Government workers fanned out across the homeless camp along Notre Dame East on Tuesday, as they tried to convince people living there to move out as the temperatures drop. However, some living there are planning to stay no matter what.
Jacques Brochu has called his tent home since July.
“Since I’m here, I feel more healthy than I had ever been in my life,” he told Global News.
He has his own kitchen and people drop off helpful supplies like long johns. He has no plans to leave any time soon.
“Here, I can go in my room. Not my tent, my room,” Brochu explained.
Unlike Brochu, many have left since the camp’s population reached its peak in the summer, according to Michel Monette of CARE Montreal.
“There was 125 people at the camp in July. There is around 40 now,” Monette said.
With the colder weather setting in, Mayor Valérie Plante is hoping everyone at the camp will pack up and leave before the winter really takes hold.
“Today we are starting this exercise of solidarity, we are going to every person there and telling them the options for them,” she explained at a press conference.
Public health workers spent their day at the camp, speaking to residents including Brochu. They recommended people could sleep at the hotel at Place Dupuis that’s been turned into a shelter and they also spoke to residents about other resources in the area. Brochu declined the offer.
“Do you think I’m going to go sleep there and at eight in the morning, I’m going to be thrown out?” he told Global News, adding that he’d heard the bathrooms have no doors at the hotel and that security guards regularly check rooms overnight with flashlights.
Monette pointed to the CARE Montreal day centre, saying homeless people can spend time there after leaving shelters in the morning.
“From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, they can be in the day centre, watch a movie, go on the internet, whatever,” he said.
Brochu is not interested. He says his tent is fully insulated, and he does not fear the cold.
“I will add my propane tank with an extension in my small propane heater,” he said.
“He embraces a cause that puts his life at threat, and then there are people following him,” Monette said.
Plante fears accidents if people use heaters.
Authorities are even offering storage units where people can keep their belongings in the winter months, and some are accepting the pitch.
“We were able to get probably around 15 to leave today, and we think that from now to Friday we will have another 10 to 15 that will come,” Monette said.
Brochu says he will not be among them.
“They said ‘well, you should be OK with us.’ No, you’re treating me as a child and I refuse it and I don’t trust you,” he exclaimed.
Monette believes even the most steadfast holdouts will cave as the mercury drops.
“Winter will just like empty the camp,” he said.
The mayor maintains nobody will be forcefully removed.