Homelessness is no different in other places. There’s simply no places to go. Montreal is changing that. Since January 15 those experiencing homelessness are able to go to the former Royal Victoria Hospital — a site closed off since 2015.
The former hospital became a shelter. Patient rooms in the hospital have been converted into 80-bedrooms which are open to those sleeping in the cold.
The shelter was launched because other homeless shelters faced limited capacity and the struggle to accommodate those sleeping in the below-freezing temperatures.
Unlike the majority of city shelters in Montreal, people will have the option of bringing their pets to this shelter.
Although the shelter will only stay open until April 15, provincial legislators are working with city officials to secure more long-term solutions and permanent housing.
One organization, Old Brewery Mission is also working with city officials to end the homeless dilemma. The organization will also help run the shelter. In the meantime, they continue to lobby the city to create more space.
“All the beds are occupied. And people still come to our doors,” Matthew Pearce, president and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, told Mother Nature Network. “We’ve been accommodating them — so we don’t turn people away in the cold — on the floor in our cafeteria, for example.”
“This is not dignified… this is not the proper way to host people in an organization that seeks to move people out of homelessness and back into society. It’s not an expression of respect for the individual or a sense that they have a place in society — to tell them they have to go and sleep on the floor.”
Accommodating not only people, but their pets are also another task Old Brewery Mission is working on.
“None of the existing main resources for homelessness are equipped in such a way as to allow pets to come in,” Pearce explains. “These are people who, because of that, are left without an option. At least in the winter, let’s give them an option.”
Overall progress is being made in helping people off the streets.
“We’ve been able to move forward quickly on creating this emergency unit for homeless people,” Montreal mayor Valerie Plante told CBC. “of course, this is for this winter, but what is a positive sign is knowing that our administration wants to find a solution in the long term.”
“No one should be outside right now. Everyone deserves a roof,” she added.
“We’re making some good progress toward eliminating homelessness in Montreal. But the reality is right now, we do need a temporary facility over the course of winter because we don’t want to leave anybody on the streets,” Sam Watts, CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission said.