Montreal’s mayor says she won’t tolerate temporary “tent” cities this summer.
“For us, it’s never a solution to be sleeping outside, and we are not going to tolerate organized camping sites,” said Valérie Plante. “We are not going in this direction.”
The mayor made her comments at a Thursday morning press conference where she spoke about the city’s efforts to tackle homelessness issues, including a critical lack of social housing in the city.
Plante said by the end of her mandate in November, she will have built 80 per cent of the promised 6,000 social housing units she committed to at the beginning of her term. She said along with the federal and provincial governments, the city has committed funding for five projects developed under the Rapid Housing Creation Initiative. She said about 10 projects should be developed by 2022.
She also said social housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, and the government hasn’t committed enough funds to social housing.
When pressed about the solutions for the social housing crisis in the city, the mayor said she was committed to providing roofs over heads this summer, without going into too many details on how. She also said the city won’t tolerate temporary pop-up “cities.”
“The plan is we want to bring people under a roof. That has always been our intention,” Plante said.
Advocates for those experiencing homelessness, though, say temporary “tent” cities are sometimes the only shelter people can find.
“While I don’t encourage tent cities, people do need to remain housed in some way while they are waiting for housing,” said David Chapman of Resilience Montreal.
The city dismantled a “tent city” in the Hochelaga area this week. It did the same last summer to several pop-up tent cities in Montreal.
Getting rid of them will hurt the homeless population, experts say.
“It will simply push people more into the margins,” Chapman said. “The tent cities don’t go away. If they aren’t accessible, they will go into hiding, they will go into the forest.”
Advocates say creating proper housing takes time, and it’s unlikely enough units will be ready this summer.
So tent cities are a desperate solution to a desperate problem.
“How long is it going to take for her to put something up, because if she thinks these tents aren’t going to just re-emerge, that’s a problem because they will,” said Nakuset of the Native Women’s Shelter.
Others, though, say sometimes, people experiencing homelessness need to be directed toward an alternative to sleeping outside.
“We have to show people there is something better and the vast majority will say, ‘If you can offer something I need, I will take it,'” said Sam Watts of the Welcome Hall Mission.