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Montreal community organization offers new portable shelters to help homeless during winter

Click to play video: 'Makeshift igloos to help shield Montreal homeless from the cold' Makeshift igloos to help shield Montreal homeless from the cold
WATCH: Montreal's homeless population is dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks inside shelters and freezing cold weather outside. An East end community organization is bringing a warm new weapon to the fight, all the way from the Czech Republic. Global’s Dan Spector explains – Jan 19, 2021

A community organization helping homeless people in Montreal’s east end is providing people who live outside with portable new shelters that will help keep them warm.

It’s called the Iglou, and it’s built in the Czech Republic.

“It is kind of an exterior, very robust tent for people that cannot come to the shelter for any reason,” explained Michel Monette, the founder and director of CARE Montreal.

The pieces snap together easily like puzzle pieces, and according to Monette, temperatures are 15 degrees warmer on the inside. For now, he’s ordered 20 of the shelters to test them out. They cost about $400 each, including import fees.

“What we want to do is offer them a way to be secure outside when it’s very cold, and stay alive,” he said.

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Read more: Coroner investigating death of Montreal homeless man found inside portable toilet

Maxime Blanchard, a homeless man who was at the shelter at the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve YMCA on Tuesday, said these days he rests his head on some pieces of foam under a tarp in the parking lot.

“I’ve been living on the street like five years, six years, something like that,” he explained.

Blanchard and many others either cannot or do not want to stay in crowded shelters, choosing the cold instead.

“I have my liberty outside,” he said.

Laying eyes upon the Iglou for the first time, Blanchard thought it was an excellent idea.

“I wish I could get this, man,” Blanchard said.

After his interview with Global News, Monette realized just where Blanchard was sleeping. The homeless man became the very first Iglou recipient.

“I love it,” he said, after crawling inside.

“I don’t want to arrive here and have a lot of cops having this guy dead because it’s too cold. That would break my heart,” said Monette.

Read more: Advocates say at least six Montreal homeless people ticketed for curfew offences in first week

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When asked about the Iglou, Mayor Valerie Plante praised the creativity of the idea, but said she wished there were better solutions to the homeless problem.

“I think it’s important to have a comprehensive approach to this. I want people to be in a warm place and I’m not even sure this is what we need right now,” she said.

“As a society is that what we want? I want people to have a roof on top of their head and I’m upset there was a lack on investment for so long.”

Monette says he knew Raphael Andre, the homeless man who was found dead in a portable toilet earlier this week.

“I would really love if he would have had access to one of these,” he said.

The plan is for street workers to visit people who are known to be living outdoors, and offer them an Iglou.

“It’s kind of us taking the shelter to them instead of taking them to the shelter,” Monette said.

His team will check in a week or so later, and see if the new shelter is helping them.

“If they need to follow up for something, if they need help, we’re going to be there for them,” said Noemie Audet, an intervention workers at CARE Montreal.

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Monette says if the community responds well to the idea, he will order more. He may also try to build something similar locally.

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