mtl-pops

Dans la Rue founder Father Emmett (Pops) Johns, left, smiles with one of his success stories, Eric Denis. ((CBC))

After two decades of helping Montreal's street kids, Dans la Rue has launched a program to help homeless youth find permanent housing.

The organization's founder, Father Emmett (Pops) Johns made the announcement as he kicked off Dans la Rue's annual fundraising drive Tuesday.

The group has hired a housing co-ordinator and set up a $20,000 housing support fund, Johns said.

The housing program was inspired by the success stories of some of the teens helped by Dans la Rue, including 30-year old Éric Denis, Johns said.

Fifteen years ago, Denis was a street kid with a Mohawk haircut and a serious drug problem.

Now, he is a filmmaker with a family and his own house.

"If it wasn't for Dans La Rue I think today I'd be dead," Denis said. "I would have just [gone] deeper and deeper into the drugs and probably died of an overdose."

Denis said Dans La Rue helped him get off the drugs, find an apartment — and believe in himself.

Johns said stories like Denis's are wonderful.

"It really gives you a shot in the arm, and enthusiasm," said Johns.

But, Denis said it is Pops who has been an inspiration to him.

"I don't believe in God — I'm not religious," Denis said. "But Pops is my god because he got me off the street."

In addition to providing homeless teens with warm meals each night from a roaming recreational vehicle, Dans la Rue operates a shelter known as The Bunker, and Chez Pops — a day centre offering services including counselling, work training and health care.

Dans la Rue is hoping to raise $3 million.