Tuesday was the last day people living under the expressway could call the site home.
July 11 was the date ordered by a Quebec judge for residents to vacate and clean up the encampment where over a dozen people have been living since November.
“What this does is it forces people basically into abandoned buildings, anywhere where they can not be seen,” said David Chapman, head of Resilience Montreal which has been helping the group.
Given two weeks’ notice, the eviction came following a Quebec court of appeal ruling. It was the end of a drawn-out legal battle between the Ministry of Transport and those representing residents of the encampment.
“This is extremely strategic and we need to make sure the infrastructure is safe. That is why we have to dismantle this encampment today,” Transports Québec spokesperson Sarah Bensadoun said.
The ministry has been trying to evict people since November so they can carry out repair work on the overpass. The judge said the work can no longer be delayed, but he took an unusual two weeks to issue his ruling.
Chapman says most of the 15 people who live there have applied for housing. Less than eight remained on site Tuesday. The majority, Chapman says, do not have a place to stay.
“If I authorize someone to have an apartment and I tell them ‘good for you, you have an apartment,’ that is not a roof over your head, you still have to find that said apartment in the context of a housing crisis,” Gabriel Pelletier, lawyer with the Mobile Legal Clinic said.
Social workers and storage lockers have been provided to help with the transition.
Housing advocates on-site protesting the eviction Tuesday claimed the aid is insufficient and unreasonable for people experiencing homelessness.
While most agreed the encampment was not acceptable, the eviction is not an improvement, they said.
“A community under a bridge remains a better option than just atomizing them and scattering them across the wind. At least as a community, they can interact with each other and it facilitates work with community organizations and social workers,” Pelletier said.
The transportation ministry says it will carry on with its three-year, $35-million repair project which it says has been significantly delayed.