the community demands more

Unveiled a few days ago by the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (CCSMTL) and the City of Montreal, the concerted action plan for homelessness in Montreal is not unanimous from the community environment. The latter requires more places in emergency accommodation and more culturally secure accommodation.

The vice-president of social development at Centraide Greater Montreal, Marie-Lyne Brunet, welcomes the longer-term vision of this plan, unlike those presented previously. However, she supports the need to adopt a more global vision of homelessness in order to understand the different faces it can take.

« It’s a first step, because it’s longer-term support than the last winter measures […], but you really have to go further for it to have a real impact and so that you don’t have to systematically do the same thing every year, she says. Sometimes, when we launch very targeted plans, it lacks a bit of a global vision of what brings these people to the street.

Marie-Lyne Brunet supports the importance of creating more places in emergency accommodation services (SHU) and the need to develop more services adapted to the realities of people and their specific needs. This includes more resources for people with animals, couples, people who are victims of discrimination and members of indigenous communities.

According to her, institutions need to hear the growing concerns and needs of the community while giving them more resources.

The community sector must be around the table, but it must also be given the means to be around the table.

Marie-Lyne Brunet, vice-president social development at Centraide Greater Montreal

Hundreds of beds requested

In total, the plan provides for 1,623 places in emergency accommodation services. For the director of the Support Network for Single and Homeless People of Montreal (RAPSIM), Annie Savage, this plan does not reflect the reality on the ground and does not bring « nothing new under the sun » in the face of a number of places in clearly insufficient emergency accommodation.

« [1623 places] it’s about the same number as we had at the peak of last winter and we remember that the situation was critical, the resources were overflowing and the needs were not met, she said. It is only a good old strategy of the CIUSSS which served as a rehash to divert the real message ”.

According to Annie Savage, hundreds of additional places would have to be added to adequately meet demand. She also points out the lack of accountability in this plan with regard to the City and the CCSMTL.

“At some point, solutions have to be found and that cannot just rest on the shoulders of the community network, which is saturated and out of breath,” she adds. The City must stop saying that it is the responsibility of the provincial to act […] and the latter must stop waiting for Montreal to free up premises”.

The plan also provides for the establishment of a “web tool” to monitor in real time the places available in the various shelters. It will direct people to where they can be accommodated via a transport system. However, Annie Savage points out that a shuttle system already exists and she therefore fears that people will find themselves redirected to unsuitable resources.

More culturally safe housing

The director general of Quebec Native Projects (PAQ), Heather Johnston also sees her shelters filled to capacity every evening. According to her, there is a dire need for culturally safe housing to meet the needs of Indigenous people.

“In addition to the lack of shelter beds there is a lack of permanent housing with culturally safe services for the Indigenous community,” she said. The reason why we are overwhelmed in the shelter is that we have no accommodation to put people in, everyone is looking for one, because no one wants to be in a shelter”.

This year, only five places in subsidized housing would have been made available to him for the 500 people who attend his two shelters.

The director would like to see more accommodation where people are supported in their reintegration process, particularly through mental health assistance. Heather Johnston deplores funding that does not go beyond 2024, which adds to a lack of manpower that severely affects the community sector.

« The biggest crisis, regardless of the budget sent to me, is the shortage of speakers, it is almost impossible to recruit a qualified and experienced speaker […] even for administrative staff, it’s a headache, she says. In our services, we are at the end of the line”.

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