Chez Doris buys new building, hopes to expand services thanks to $1M donation

Chez Doris, a women's day shelter located in downtown Montreal, will be expanding into a new building thanks to a $1-million donation from retired Montreal businessman Andrew Harper.

The women's day shelter will take possession of their new building Nov. 1

Chez Doris will expand its services after it takes possession of the second building in November. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Chez Doris, a women's day shelter located in downtown Montreal, has bought a second building with funding from a local Montreal businessman, and will be expanding their services to include emergency overnight beds.

This development is made possible thanks to a $1-million donation from Andrew Harper, announced last May.

The organization provides support to women dealing with homelessness, poverty, mental illness and addictions. Chez Doris is the only women's day shelter in Montreal that's open seven days a week. 

It offers meals, access to showers, hygienic products and clean clothes as well as a wide array of activities and counselling.

Executive Director Marina Boulos-Winton said Chez Doris would take possession of the new building Nov. 1.  They aren't yet releasing the location, only saying that it is "in the west end of downtown Montreal."

Marina Boulos-Winton, executive director of Chez Doris, made the announcement at a Thanksgiving dinner held on Friday. (CBC)

"We're making plans to renovate our existing building and the newly acquired building to expand our services," said Boulos-Winton.

The second building will house some of Chez Doris' counselling services and administrative offices. She said once the space is freed up at the current location, they hope to add 20 overnight emergency shelter beds for homeless women by the year 2020.

Right now, Chez Doris doesn't offer any overnight beds for clients.

"There's not enough emergency shelter beds for women," Boulos-Winton told CBC. "At least 25 per cent of our homeless population are women."

Largest private donation ever

Harper's donation was the largest private donation ever made to Chez Doris since its founding.

"If it weren't for him this wouldn't have happened at all," said Boulos-Winton.

Andrew Harper gave $1 million to Chez Doris last May. (Charles Contant/CBC)

She said there are still many costs associated with the ambitious project and she hopes other private donors will be inspired by Harper to contribute to the expansion.

Harper, who ran A. Harper Associates Inc. with his late wife Carole, made his money importing and distributing specialty cookies and chocolates.

The current Chez Doris building bears the name of both Harper and his wife out front.

"I want to do good because I cannot take it with me," Harper told CBC. "It gives me a feeling of satisfaction. And I'm sure my good wife, I was married to her for 61 years, she would be very happy."

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours.