Under state of emergency, Montreal opens 2 outdoor day centres for city's homeless
More centres planned as homeless shelters close, scale back due to lack of resources
Using powers made available under the local state of emergency, the City of Montreal opened two outdoor day centres Saturday to provide food and services to the city's population of homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The centres, at Cabot Square and Place Émilie-Gamelin, are being run in co-operation with the department of public health and local organizations that work with the city's homeless — organizations that sounded the alarm earlier in the week about difficult conditions.
"They're doing everything they can with very little means," said Coun. Rosannie Filato, who has the public safety portfolio on the city's executive committee. "The reason why we declared the state of emergency is we were hearing them say, 'we can't put up with this anymore.'"
The centres will have tents to provide shelter during bad weather and offer space for people to get food, facilities to wash up, and access to social workers and health-care workers.
Resilience Montreal, the day centre that operates near Cabot Square, was forced to close its doors earlier this week. Nakuset, the shelter's co-manager, said the city's initiative will help them properly do their job.
"It's almost easier to do it outside than it was inside because of the cramped location," she said.
"Now in the park, people can move around easier. We also have the opportunity to get them to do social distancing."
There are plans to open three more day centres, and the city is also preparing several night shelters that provide enough space between beds to adhere to physical distancing rules.
There are usually around 1,400 beds available in shelters each night in Montreal, Filato said, but for public health reasons the number dropped by around 300 last week, with more closures forecast.
The YMCA on Stanley Street will serve as a shelter for homeless women, and space in the Guy-Favreau complex will offer accommodation for men. The option to use hotels is also available, Filato said.
The former Royal Victoria Hospital, which has recently been used as an emergency winter shelter, will be used as an isolation facility.
"So if a person in a situation of homelessness has symptoms or or gets the virus we have an area now where they can be isolated in order to protect themselves and to protect others," she said.
With files from Brian Lapuz