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Plateau-Mont-Royal residents ‘living in fear’ since Hotel Dieu shelter opened

People living in the area where Hotel-Dieu is located say crime has gone up since a 24-hour shelter opened. Courtesy: David Robertson

Several Plateau-Mont-Royal residents say crime and vandalism have gone up in their neighbourhood since a new 24-hour shelter opened in the old Hotel-Dieu hospital.

“First it was just a little bit of drugs, now it’s spilled onto our property where they’re actually doing drugs in our front step and vandalism happens,” says Dionisia Spallas, who lives on St. Urbain street. “I put surveillance cameras and within two hours, there was someone having sex across the street.”

Spallas says it’s gotten so bad that she practically has 911 on speed dial.

Even though police are intervening, she says it’s not enough.

“We don’t feel safe,” Spallas said.

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The City of Montreal has been dealing with the issue in collaboration with Montreal police (SPVM) and Quebec’s Ministry of Health, which chose the site and funds the project along with the local health authority CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

Borough councillor Maeva Vilain says that this week, the city has deployed a new brigade that has proven effective in other boroughs.

“So the citizens can phone them and there will be a mediation and direct intervention very quickly,” said Vilain.

Vilain says they have also set up an outdoor space on the premises of Hotel-Dieu so clients can hang out.

Neighbours say it’s not working.

“For sure that’s a big mess because they mix people inside with different needs,” says Eric Faille, who also lives on St. Urbain Street. “Keep the people who really need the program who are not drug users or alcoholics, keep the same people because they are fighting.”

Both Faille and Spallas say they say are sympathetic to the needs of the homeless population but more needs to be done.

“You put a dumpster fire across the street from us, we are now the priority,” Spallas said.

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Quebec’s Ministry of Health referred Global News to Montreal police, saying it was a safety issue.

They did not respond to questions about whether they’re considering moving the shelter to another site by deadline.

Montreal police say they have deployed extra patrollers to the area and a mixed team with special training to speak to the homeless population.

“Rest assured our officers are intervening when required,” Caroline Labelle, an SPVM spokesperson, wrote in an email. “We invite citizens to contact 911 or their local neighborhood station when they witness a criminal act.”

Labelle says people can also contact Info-Crime Montréal anonymously by calling 514 393-1133 or by filling out its online form.

In spite of that, some neighbours feel so hopeless they are simply leaving the area.

“It’s been very disconcerting, disappointing and difficult to live with,” said David Robertson, who is selling his apartment. “People are not listening to us.”

Meanwhile, the Old Brewery Mission, which manages the shelter on behalf of the ministry, says it is trying to find solutions to the issue.

The Old Brewery Mission’s communications director, Marie-Pier Therrien, says they are working on the creation of a task force that will do outreach and speak to individuals in the area that are deemed problematic.

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“We really understand that the situation is in no way acceptable for them (neighbours),” Therrien said. “We’re also doing some education with our residents at the Old Brewery Mission so they have a code of conduct they sign when they join and we definitely encourage them to follow it.”

The Old Brewery Mission says the Ministry of Health is the only entity that can decide to move the site.

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