Chez Doris plans new emergency shelter for women in downtown Montreal

Chez Doris aims to open a new building next year that will provide emergency sleeping quarters. The announcement comes a day after news that a new day centre will soon open, steps from Cabot Square.

New centre aims to meet growing demand following Open Door's move away from Cabot Square

Marina Boulos-Winton, executive director of Chez Doris, is hoping to raise money for a new building that will serve as an emergency homeless shelter. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

Chez Doris, a women's shelter serving the western part of downtown Montreal, is planning to open a new building next year that will provide emergency accommodation for women with nowhere to sleep.

The non-profit agency purchased a residential building not far from its existing location on Chomedey Street, with the help of a $1-million private donation.

The rezoning was approved at the last city council meeting, so the building can serve as an emergency shelter.

Marina Boulos-Winton, executive director of Chez Doris, said she is now working to secure $2.1 million in additional private and public funding to renovate the space, with the aim of opening by December 2020.

"By being able to open by winter of next year, it will allow us to provide 22 new beds for homeless women," she said.

"It's going to be a welcome relief for us."

In addition to the west downtown shelter, Chez Doris is opening a permanent residence in the Parc La Fontaine area next summer with 26 beds. That means a year from now, the agency will have three points of service.

Chez Doris is seeking to raise another $1 million annually to operate both the residence and the new shelter.

The announcement for the new shelter comes a day after Nakuset, the executive director of the Montreal Native Women's Shelter said a new day centre, to be called Resilience Montreal, will soon open steps from Cabot Square.

Resilience Montreal will be open to both men and women, and provide food, showers and social services to those in need.

Boulos-Winton said the two new centres will be complementary and help meet a pressing need following last year's relocation to Parc Avenue of the Open Door, a day shelter formerly located in a church near Cabot Square.

People who frequent the park and those who advocate for them have reported that since the Open Door moved, the area no longer feels safe.

Projet Montréal Coun. Cathy Wong said while it's a 'challenge to live all together,' there is a lot of support among residents for more services for homeless people in the district. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

Chez Doris saw a 30 per cent increase in visitors over the summer compared with the same period a year earlier, Boulos-Winton said.

"Our centre was once a townhouse, and it's not made to accommodate that many people."

City backs project

Projet Montréal Coun. Cathy Wong, who represents the Peter-McGill district, said both projects have support from the city.

With new condominiums popping up near Cabot Square, the area's becoming increasingly affluent.

Wong acknowledged it can be a "challenge to live all together," but she said the response to the prospect of more services for homeless people has been positive. 

"I would say that the situation was so bad during the summer that they are all expecting more services to come in to serve the vulnerable population in the area," she said.

The current location of Chez Doris will remain open following the opening of the new building. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

The city's financial contribution is still being negotiated.

Boulos-Winton said Chez Doris would launch a fundraising campaign as early as next spring.

The current day centre will stay open, she said. Chez Doris offers meals, showers, hygienic products and clean clothes, as well as an array of activities and counselling.


Benjamin Shingler is based in Montreal. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @benshingler.


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