Aug-21-09-metro

Police say Metro riders are uneasy with the growing presence of homeless people in Montreal's subway stations. ((CBC))

Montreal police have created a new squad to deal with a growing number of homeless people loitering in the city's Metro stations.

The department's subway unit says it has dispatched four police officers to reduce the number of homeless people sleeping in and hanging around stations.

Police say the goal is to re-establish a sense of security among Metro users and businesses that operate in the stations.

With winter returning, police say many homeless people occupy public spaces in subway areas and that has led to numerous complaints.

"Our work consists of ensuring that the people who use the Metro can do so in total security, and ensuring a harmonious co-existence between users and the homeless," says Commander Alain Larivière of the police service's Metro unit.

But Larivière says they won't simply be kicking homeless people out into the cold.

"We are tolerating people in the Metro. At the same time, we will explain to them what is tolerated and not tolerated — for example, if people urinate or show aggressive behaviour," says Larivière

The Metro unit says it began this initiative a month ago and so far has some tentative support from organizations that help the homeless.

"I understand when homeless people are around ... [people] feel insecure," said Cyril Morgan of the Welcome Hall mission. But Morgan has concerns over how police may treat the homeless people they find.

"Just putting them on the street is probably not a great idea," he said.