Homeless people in Saint-Jérôme refuse to go to resources that impose a reintegration process on them
Since the closure of the humanitarian Book respite and the dismantling of an improvised camp, many homeless people have been living hidden in the woods, parks and public spaces of Saint-Jérôme, on the fringes of a society that continues to reject them. because they refuse to take charge.
“With the new regulations [qui interdit l’installation de tentes dans les lieux publics], they are all hidden. It’s a real “seek and find” in Saint-Jérôme,” says Chantal Dumont, from the Humanitarian Book.
For two weeks, Chantal has been walking the streets and the woods in search of her proteges. She brings them food and blankets, and puts them in touch with each other, to make sure they stay alive. In her phone, she has pictures of each of them. Just in case. Because the more isolated they are, the more vulnerable they are.
In the former Book refuge, she welcomed “the excluded”, those who, for various reasons, do not fit into other accommodation resources. And that disturbed. She has been forced to move five times in recent years. “It is sure that we do not arrive with 50 little kitties to pet, she admits. People are afraid, they find it confronting. »
Last spring, the organization lost most of its funding from the CISSS. Then, this fall, the City ousted them. “Since January, we have had 1,300 complaints from citizens, it could not continue,” explains the mayor of Saint-Jérôme, Marc Bourcier. “It was very difficult for the entourage. And I, as mayor, do not deal with homelessness, because it is a problem of the provincial government, on the other hand, the safety of people was extremely important. »
The village of the Smurfs
In the hours following the closure of the shelter, the 1er October, blue tents appeared just behind the La Hutte refuge, at the Sainte-Paule church. They called this camp the « Smurfs’ village ». At first everything was fine. But it quickly degenerated, say those who have stayed there. Violence and drugs had become ubiquitous, to the point that some went into the woods to set up new camps.
The mayor of Saint-Jérôme passed a by-law prohibiting camping in parks, citing safety issues. On October 25, three camps were dismantled by the City’s fire department, under police surveillance. CISSS workers were there to offer help to those who wanted it.
The majority have been relocated to La Hutte, which has opened around twenty overflow beds for the occasion. But like The duty was able to see, many nevertheless found themselves on the street, without resources.
The problem is that since the closure of the Humanitarian Book, there is no longer any shelter that welcomes everyone, without restriction, to offer them a roof and a hot meal.
But the mayor is categorical: he no longer wants this type of resource, which only « feeds homelessness », according to him. “We decided to take care of homelessness in a different way in Saint-Jérôme,” he explains proudly. We turned to La Hutte, an example favored by the ministry. It’s a model where you don’t just give them fish, you give them a fishing rod. »
Reintegration: not for everyone
However, among the homeless population, not everyone is ready to start a reintegration process, pleads Chantal Dumont. “They dropped out of society for a reason and now we are pushing to force them back into it. You have to go at their pace. If we wait until they are ready to give them a chance, we risk finding a big one. gang dead behind containers. »
Étienne, 36, is not ready to “take charge” and does not want to stop using. « I’ve already tried many methods, strategies, » he says, miming quotation marks with his fingers. I have reached my third life, but I am not a cat. »
Until very recently, Étienne spent his nights on the sofas of the Humanitarian Book. When he moved too much air, Chantal sent him for a ride. Today, he has nowhere to sleep. « He doesn’t want a house, what he wants is a place to rest, a drop-in, explains Chantal. Do we have to impose a reintegration on him? »
Étienne and Chantal join Mélanie, who has been dragging her life in a grocery cart for five years. « I sleep in the street, anywhere, where the police don’t bother us, » she says.
Mélanie “ate volleys” more often than in the street. But she categorically refuses to go to accommodation resources like La Hutte. « It’s worse than a prison in there! » she says, annoyed to always be asked this question.
A woman passes, her eyes on the ground. Chantal sets off in pursuit. “Hey Ruth! We’ve been looking for you everywhere for a week. are you correct? Ruth grumbles a little against the employment insurance office, which asks her for papers that she lost a long time before continuing on her way. Relieved to know she is alive, Chantal calls a policeman to give him the information.
A little further on, a man has built a makeshift camp, hidden in a tree. He doesn’t know how long he will be able to sleep there before the police find him and ask him to move out. At the edge of the river, Jacques has just been informed that he must dismantle his tent. « He’s cursed because he was told he had to leave by noon tomorrow, and he doesn’t know where to go, » sums up Chantal, who brings him a sandwich as a comfort.
Despite criticism from some, the general manager of La Hutte, François Savoie, believes in its reintegration model, which aims to “break the circle of homelessness”.
But he is aware that this is not for everyone. “We offer a possibility, but there are other shelters in the Laurentians. There is a range of services that are offered. Despite everything, there are people who will say: “I don’t want that”. Ultimately, it is their right, but it is also their responsibility. »
He also specifies that consumption material is prohibited at La Hutte, but that people are welcome there even when they are intoxicated, on the condition that they do not pose a risk to their own health and that they be respectful. There are also extra beds for those who just want to sleep, and there are plans to add a heat stop.
In the meantime, the situation is deteriorating rapidly for those who are on the street, deplores Chantal. Already, abandoned buildings have been engulfed in flames in recent days, possibly the work of homeless people who wanted to warm up. “What are we waiting for to intervene, for someone to die? »
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