People experiencing homelessness in the West Island have a new place to warm up during the cold days of winter.
The West Island Warming Centre, located at 5100 avenue Château-Pierrefonds, opened its doors on Dec. 21 and is welcoming people seven nights a week until March 21.
The emergency shelter is the first of its kind to open in the West Island, and organizers believe it’s an important resource that was missing in the area.
“There is homelessness in the West Island but it’s never seen, people don’t see it because it’s often ‘invisible,’ that’s how we call it,” said Caroline Turpin-Emond, the centre’s coordinator.
“It’s couch surfing, people living in tents outside, in cars.”
The centre is open every night from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. As of Jan. 4, however, it will extend its hours from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m., when winter conditions are at their harshest.
People who are experiencing homelessness are welcomed to spend the night, have a meal and clean up.
The warming centre can accommodate up to 15 people each night. Two social workers are available.
It has five beds, a clothing cleaning service, emergency clothing such as coats, scarfs and a computer to use the internet.
“People say they are really happy about it because the temperature has been getting very cold,” Turpin-Emond said.
The centre welcomes everyone — regardless of their age, sex or addiction issues.
Organizers have set up specific rooms for women and young people. They also accept pets.
“We want them to feel safe and welcomed in this place for the winter,” said Turpin-Emond.
The centre is run by non profits Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’île (AJOI) and Ricochet and is funded by the federal and municipal governments.
“This plan is of unprecedented scope this year, in order to adequately meet the needs of homeless people across city territory, their needs have become increasingly pressing since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Nathalie Goulet, executive committee member responsible for social inclusion, sports, recreation, the status of women, homelessness and youth, in a press release.
The centre will be open until March 31.
The AJOI-Mobile service will eventually be available to accompany individuals to specific resources.