Indigenous

Aboriginal homeless in Montreal get new help

New services are on the way to help with a growing number of homeless Aboriginal people in Montreal, city officials say. Inuit and First Nation people represent almost one-third of the homeless in the city, where they often gather at Metro stations.

Homeless who gather at Metro stations targeted for assistance

Robbie Watt of the Makivik Corporation was on hand for the announcement about new services for the homeless. Makivik represents the interests of Inuit of Nunavik, and provides services to all Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Agreement, even when they live in Montreal.

New services are on the way to help with a growing number of homeless Aboriginal people in Montreal, city officials confirmed Monday.

Inuit and First Nations represent almost one-third of the homeless in the city, where they often gather at Metro stations.

New services by the Société de développement social de Ville-Marie (SDVSM) will now be available in five Metro stations. Three people will patrol the Berri-UQAM, Bonaventure, McGill and Atwater Metro stations and be able to offer much more than socks and juice to homeless aboriginal people.

We face an important housing crisis in northern Quebec, that is part of why there is this situation in the city.— Robbie Watt, Makivik Corporation

"We are talking about going out there and directing them to shelters where they can get three meals a day, showers, haircut, cleaning services, but also health exams, with Doctors Without Borders, because they usually don’t go to the hospital," said Damien Silès, general director at the SDSVM.

Lava Partridge, Simiuni Nauya and his brother Lucassie Nauya are part of a growing population of homeless Inuit in Montreal. (CBC)
“It is more than an initiative to feel good before the holidays,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. “We have the political will to make it a three-year investment.”

A mobile home with a doctor and health services will also go around the city. Almost seven out of 10 homeless persons have a mental health issue, according to Dr. Nicolas Bergeron from Doctors Without Borders.

Makivik Corporation is a partner in this initiative. “We face an important housing crisis in northern Quebec, that is part of why there is this situation in the city,” said Makivik executive assistant Robbie Watt.

“Makivik Corporation, representing the interests of Inuit of Nunavik, is providing services to all Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Agreement," added Watt, "even when they live a situation in Montreal."

For now, the second phase of this program does not include a new Aboriginal homeless shelter, but Silès said one is on the way for 2015. “Everything is almost secure in terms of financing and permits, but we are not yet able to confirm its location.”

About the Author

Since 2007, Caroline Nepton Hotte has hosted Boréal hebdo, a French-language program about the North, airing on CBC North radio. She also worked on the award-winning 8th Fire television series as a field producer. She is a member of the community of Mashteuiatsh, near Lac Saint-Jean, Que.

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