The COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for the homeless. Montreal police on Monday morning moved homeless people who had set up their tents under the structures of the Ville-Marie highway, in the Atwater Avenue area. In the east of the city, hundreds of homeless people still occupy the makeshift camp on Notre-Dame Street. Expressing concern for the plight of the homeless, Mayor Valérie Plante promised to present an emergency plan for the winter season shortly.
A team of police intervened Monday morning to dislodge the homeless who had set up their makeshift camp composed of seven tents on a site belonging to Transport Quebec, not far from Cabot Square. According to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), those present were accompanied by the Resilience day center.
“At least they gave people time to pick up their belongings,” Duty the director of the Resilience Center, David Chapman, who was present during the police intervention. After negotiations with the police, the group was moved to another site not far away.
However, the situation of the homeless is precarious. Over the past month, David Chapman has documented three overdose deaths in the Cabot Square area. Two of the victims were Aboriginal women.
In the case of the camp under the Ville-Marie highway, the workers know at least where the homeless have been relocated. But that’s not always the way it is. “When people are deported and you don’t know where they are at, it becomes impossible to follow up to make sure they have basic services and that they are safe,” says Chapman. .
For its part, the SPVM ensures that the police act with discernment when they intervene with the homeless. “When homeless or vulnerable people settle temporarily in public places, their eviction is not systematic. If the SPVM police officers carry out an eviction, it will be as part of a concerted process carried out in collaboration with community partners, “the SPVM indicated in an email.
In the east of the city, some 300 people still occupy the temporary camp on rue Notre-Dame. The City had asked them to vacate the premises by August 31, but they are still there.
An expected plan
During the city council meeting on Monday, opposition leader Lionel Perez called out to Mayor Valérie Plante and asked her to use the powers that the city holds to help the homeless. The mayor recalled that emergency measures had been put in place for the homeless last spring and that her administration would shortly present a plan for the winter season.
“The same way we used all of our powers in the first wave, so will we. [lors de la deuxième vague], did she say. I remind you that, among other things, hotels were requisitioned. Everything is on the table right now. “
Since August, the former Royal-Victoria hospital as well as two YMCAs, Guy-Favreau and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, have been welcoming homeless people. But obviously, these services are not enough to meet demand. Last month, the mayoress affirmed that the number of homeless people had doubled in Montreal since the start of the pandemic and that they now numbered 6,000 instead of 3,000.
The most vulnerable
Laury Bacro, community organizer with the Montreal Network of Assistance to Singles and Homeless People (RAPSIM), also observes an increase in the number of homeless people in the metropolis. “Camps aren’t the ideal solution, but it’s better than nothing. It allows homeless people to have access to services that they would not have elsewhere, ”she said.
In these camps, the homeless develop a feeling of mutual aid and solidarity. Some also appreciate not having to comply with the rules in force in shelters and structured resources, argues Ms. Bacro: “For them, these camps represent a certain stability”.
David Chapman hopes the City’s plan will take into account the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, those with alcohol and drug addictions and who are often resistant to the rigid framework of shelters. “There are always plans for the homeless who are in transition and willing to leave homelessness or for those who use alcohol or drugs in small amounts. But the challenge is to put in place measures for the most vulnerable, those who are intoxicated from morning to night, “he said.