Roaming in Montreal | “It’s going to be a disaster”

Lack of emergency beds, manpower shortage and multiple outbreaks: The homeless community in Montreal is on a hiatus as the Omicron wave begins to grow. To combat this, the isolation center for homeless people with COVID-19 moved to double its reception capacity on Wednesday.

Leela Dassault

Leela Dassault

This isolation center for homeless people positive for the virus moved to the Chrome Hotel on Boulevard René-Lévesque in Montreal city center on Wednesday. Jointly managed by Old Brewery Mission and Montreal Public Health, it can accommodate 108 people. Its previous capacity at Hotel Abri du Voyageur was about 40 beds.

Photo David Bowley, Press

Chrome Hotel in Montreal city center, René-Lévesque Boulevard

“From the moment our shelters are hit by Omicron, it will be a disaster and we will find ourselves in great trouble,” fears Michelle Monet, general manager and founder of Care Montreal, which manages three shelters and 300. east of Montreal.

“It must be said that when a wave hits the general public, the homeless always arrive with a delay of two weeks”, also says Sam Watts, president and general manager of Mission Bon Aquile. The organization provides 250 emergency beds for the homeless in the city center, among other services.

Amidst labor shortage and outbreak

The shortage of manpower due to the pandemic is evident in the care of the homeless. According to Watts, about 20 community organizations are currently battling the COVID-19 outbreak.

“With us, it’s a total disaster, launched Michelle Monet. I have 21 positive staff at the moment, out of 200! CARE Montreal is at risk of disrupting services at their shelters, 24 hours a day, weekdays.” Open for seven days.

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If we add to the labor shortage that was there before, we already had a hard time finding employees. There, in addition, the employee is sick!

Michelle Monet, Managing Director and Founder of CARE Montreal

Two employees at Quebec Native Projects (PAQ) also tested positive. “If we have ten team members who go into isolation for 10 days, it will be very difficult to keep two shelters open,” said organization director Heather Johnson with concern.

Maison du Pre, which has more than 100 locations in its emergency services, has two residents along with staff suffering from COVID-19. The organization follows a protocol associated with the pandemic and may not welcome new users until the immediate crisis subsides.

not enough room for everyone

It is estimated that 3,100 people are homeless in Montreal. Last winter, there were 1,650 places available in emergency beds, notably because the Place Dupuis Hotel was temporarily converted into an asylum. It closed its doors to the homeless in the summer of 2021.

“This year, the target was 1550, but we couldn’t reach that peak because of COVID-19,” explains James Hughes, president of the Old Brewery Mission. Most shelters in Montreal had to reduce their reception capacity in March 2020 to comply with social distancing measures and have not been able to return to normalcy since.

Mr Hughes estimates that 1,450 emergency locations are now available, 200 fewer than last year. Consulted by all organizations press Every night claimed to be full and turned people away.

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“It’s clear that there are people who have no place,” says Sam Watts of the Wellcome Hall Mission. And that’s something that shouldn’t exist. ,

new faces

The directors of various organizations are also seeing that new faces are appearing on the streets.

“What impresses us most is the number of newcomers we have, despite the small number of welcomes we have,” says François Boissy, president and CEO of Maison du Pere. This number has doubled as compared to earlier. becomes worrying. ,

Poverty, housing crisis, mental health problems: Many factors can drive people to the streets. All agencies – each of which provide long-term shelter services – agree that emergency beds, while necessary, are not sufficient. There is a need for different solutions like social housing.

“Every day, we have new people coming into our shelters,” says Michel Monet of CARE Montreal. But our shelters are full of older residents who have been there since the beginning. And I am not able to provide them an apartment. ,

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