As the weather gets warmer people experiencing homelessness are once again setting up tent encampments in Montreal.
Housing advocates fear a repeat of 2020 when dozens of tents were set up at a park on Notre Dame Street in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood.
One new site at a wooded area on the south side of Hochelaga Street just west of L’Assomption already has 12 tents and mobile homes. People started moving there two weeks ago, says Guylain Levasseur who is there with his trailer.
“I paid $900 for it,” he grinned. “Now it has a big hole in the side so now it’s only a little bit better than a tent.”
Levasseur also stayed at the makeshift Notre-Dame Street camp before city officials evicted the campers for the winter. He said he’s still hoping for “a subvention for the rent or low price apartment,” he told Global News standing outside his trailer.
Montreal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre who visited the site Tuesday said if the current city administration had a long-term plan to address homelessness this wouldn’t be happening.
“They already have money for public housing,” he pointed out to reporters following his tour. “Use it.”
One way to spend, it in his view, would be to temporarily reclassify hotels and other buildings that are underused because of the pandemic as rooming houses.
“Through the rooming house that’s a good transition before they acquire affordable housing,” he argued.
Sam Watts of the Welcome Hall Mission, who also toured the site, stressed that emergency responses aren’t enough and wants more long-term planning.
“It’s very important that we not only do what we need to do right now during the pandemic,” he stated. “That’s important, emergency services matter, but we need to look beyond just emergency services.”
A spokesperson for Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told Global News in a statement that the warm weather has prompted some people to live in tents rather than make use of available resources.
According to Geneviève Jutras, “this is a phenomenon that affects every metropolis around the world and is already very present in other Canadian cities. Of course, the pandemic has exacerbated the needs and the number of people experiencing homelessness is fluctuating. We have worked with the health network and our community partners to ensure that sufficient resources are available. We are working with our partners on an offer that will take us until March 2022.”
Levasseur said there is more dignity in having his own place than being in a shelter.
“I don’t wanna be fed by somebody,” he insisted. “I’m gonna feed myself!”
He said he plans to live in his trailer until he gets an apartment he can afford.