Montreal

Eastern Townships 6th grader warms up Montreal streets

Logan Laguë first set out with his sled last week to gather donations in the Eastern Townships. His plan to collect warm items and bring them to people in need has quickly picked up steam.

When Logan Laguë heard a man had died outside in the cold, he wanted to help

Logan Laguë (middle) and Marc-André Laguë (right) after handing out a jacket and hat in Montreal last weekend. (Submitted by Cynthia Royea)

When 12-year-old Logan Laguë heard a Montreal man had died in the cold in early January, he felt compelled to do something about it. The Grade 6 student from Knowlton, Que. had no idea how quickly his plan to help out would take off.

"I just really felt bad and I didn't want anything like that to happen again," he said. "So I grabbed my sled and I went out knocking on doors."

Logan has gathered hundreds of bags of warm clothes and outerwear in the Eastern Townships — items he and his mother have been giving to people in the city who don't have a roof over their head.

In the past 11 days, two people have been found dead in Montreal as a cold snap grips southern Quebec. Overnight Thursday, a woman's body was discovered near the Berri UQAM Metro station and last week, a man was found under an NDG overpass.

This week also marked one year since an Indigenous man, Raphael André, died inside a portable toilet, steps away from a Parc Avenue shelter.

Shelters and drop-in centres across the city have struggled to keep up with high demand, especially during the winter, as public health restrictions have limited how many people they can take in. Many shelters also have a policy against allowing in anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Last Saturday, Logan Laguë and his mother, Cynthia Royea, filled up a U-Haul trailer with winter coats, jackets, boots, hats and mittens to hand out to people living on the street in Montreal. (Submitted by Cynthia Royea)

Snowball effect

Logan's project may have begun with him trudging around with his sled but it quickly snowballed.

His mother, Cynthia Royea, was surprised how quickly the sleeping bags, socks, mittens, boots and coats started piling up. It wasn't long before she and her husband joined in.

"[Our neighbours] called friends thinking it was cute and somebody said, 'Put it online!' The phone started ringing from there," she said.

Royea posted on Facebook about what Logan was doing and they started storing donations on the second storey of a daycare owned by her husband.

"The upstairs is completely full … the living room is full, the kitchen is full," she said.

Royea loaded the family SUV and made four trips to Montreal last week.

Last Saturday, she and Logan visited two Montreal shelters — the Maison du Père and the Old Brewery Mission — and drove around the city to connect their donations to people directly.

"The joy of letting somebody be able to pick what they need is beautiful," she said.

 

Donations haven't stopped pouring in — Royea says people have been lining up outside their home in Knowlton to drop things off. 

Last weekend, they rented a U-Haul trailer but this Saturday, they're driving into town in an eight-metre box truck.

"Blankets, sleeping bags, mitts and hats. They can go right in the back and take what they want," said Royea.

A man in downtown Montreal tries on a new pair of winter boots provided by 12-year-old Logan Laguë. (Submitted by Cynthia Royea)

Catching on

Royea says similar projects have sprung up in New Brunswick and the United States and Logan has garnered attention from teachers in Kuujjuaq and people in Japan. Family, friends and strangers in Canada and around the world have been inspired by his idea to give back.

Royea says neighbours in the Townships have helped gather donations and one woman spent three days preparing meals for them to distribute this weekend. Another good Samaritan recently rented out a storage space and they plan to keep the project going as long as people keep giving.

Whether it's talking to a man in the Townships who donated his late wife's winter coat, or driving around Montreal with someone they met at a shelter to help out some of his friends, Logan says the personal connections have made the experience very rewarding.

"We take time to talk with them … to know them," he said.

"Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry. It's really nice just knowing their story."

Logan Laguë stands behind a U-Haul trailer full of warm clothes and winter wear. Last Saturday, he and his mother Cynthia Royea gave out donations they collected to people experiencing homelessness in Montreal. (Submitted by Cynthia Royea)

With files from Quebec AM

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