A new place to temporarily house members of Montreal’s Indigenous community who are experiencing homelessness will open on Monday at the former Hotel des Arts on Saint-Dominque Street.
Fifty beds in private or semi-private rooms, with private bathrooms, kitchen, eating area and laundry facilities are all included in the shelter.
The new shelter will replace the existing shelter in the Guy-Favreau complex downtown where fifty beds were spread out in a gymnasium.
“The shelter today is replacing an existing shelter that didn’t have the same quality,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, said at a press conference.
A large tent-covered terrace with heat lamps and chairs will also be open 24-hours a day, seven days a week next to the shelter for the Indigenous community, including those who have drug or alcohol addictions.
“This is a terrace that has been established so that people can drink alcohol. It will be supervised,” Ian Lafrenière, the Indigenous Affairs Minister, told Global News.
It’s estimated there are between 400 and 500 Indigenous people who are experiencing homelessness in Montreal on any given night. People working with them say the shelter and the terrace are game-changers.
“It’s open 24-7 so you don’t have to get up at seven in the morning and go out on the street,” Heather Johnston, executive director of Projets Autochtones du Québec, told Global News.
The new shelter is opening one month into winter and just as the mercury drops to frigid temperatures, but officials say they did all they could to open the doors of the shelter earlier.
“We’re doing everything we can do as fast we can based on the needs that are being expressed to us,” Plante said.
Others say the COVID-19 pandemic and bureaucratic hurdles caused delays.
“Issues in what neighbourhood we are, and getting the right building permits,” Johnston admitted.
The shelter is scheduled to stay open until March 31.