For months, the tent in downtown Montreal’s Cabot Square has been giving respite to the homeless population.
But now, funding is running out and advocates fear that the hundreds of people who use its services every night will have nowhere to go.
Marty Errais visits the Raphaël Napa André memorial tent every night.
“Oh yes I do,” Errais said with cheer. He says the tent is a place he can call home for a bit.
“We’re not garbage here,” Errais said.
He says at the tent, he doesn’t only get a warm drink but a warm welcome, a hug and kind words.
He is just one of an estimated 400 people who line up outside the tent every night, people from all backgrounds and walks of life who’ve fallen on hard times, even children.
While there are only 17 spots inside the tent, many just stop by to pick up food – not one person left without saying how special the meals are.
“We try our best. It takes a big man to cook good food right?” said Tony the chef with his characteristic good humour.
But all that the tent offers could come to an end. More than $165,000 in funding is needed to keep it running through the winter.
Advocates are scrambling to find that money and hope all levels of government step in.
“The city hasn’t found a solution, and it’s pretty cold out there, so we’re really in a time crunch right now to find a sustainable solution,” said Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter and the person who runs the tent’s operations.
Through community donations, Nakuset has been able to collect $485,000 of the total $650,000 needed to keep the tent running until March.
The tent was set up with community support and some government funding after Raphaël Napa André froze to death last year.
André couldn’t find a spot as shelters had to limit spaces due to sanitary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was found dead outside a portable toilet near a shelter.
The body of Inuk elder Elisapie Pootoogook was found last month near the tent after she sought shelter in a condo building under construction nearby.
“We can’t wait until things like that happen for us to make a move,” Tony said.
Tony says that since the tent was set up last winter, demand has increased, as has the need to find a permanent solution in the area.
“It’s urgent. Urgent,” said Marc David, who helps run the operation.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the City of Montreal said they are in talks with partners to continue the project.
“We will accompany our partners so they can find the necessary funds to finance social interventions inside the tent,” Catherine Cadotte wrote to Global News.
“We know the tent is not a long-term solution, that’s why our goal is to develop 1,200 housing units dedicated to people living in homelessness during our mandate.”
As the bitter cold sets in and Christmas approaches, Errais says he has one wish: that the tent stays open for him and his friends.
“Mayor, you got food on your table, why don’t you give a little support where they really, really need it right now? Right now is the time,” Errais said to Montreal mayor Valérie Plante.