Kahnawake couple donates $25K to help set up warming tent in downtown Montreal

Mary Martin-Goodleaf and Barton Goodleaf have made a sizable donation to help Resilience Montreal shelter people experiencing homelessness.

The tent would help shelter up to 20 people in Cabot Square

Resilience Montreal is hoping to get enough funding to keep the warming shelter open throughout winter. (Simon Martel/Radio-Canada)

A couple from Kahnawake is donating $25,000 to help pay for a warming tent in Montreal's Cabot Square.

"It was really moving for my husband and I to go in [the Resilience Montreal centre] and see that despite all the struggles that the people have inside... they were just grateful to have a place to warm up and food and caring people around to help them through their day," Mary Martin-Goodleaf told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

The initiative comes after the death of Raphaël André, a homeless Innu man, whose body was found in a portable toilet, steps away from The Open Door shelter on Jan. 17.

The warming-tent project, spearheaded by Resilience Montreal, would shelter up to 20 people experiencing homelessness.

Martin-Goodleaf and her husband Barton Goodleaf own the Host Hotel in Kahnawake. They wanted to remain anonymous at first but changed their minds, hoping their actions would encourage others to "acknowledge the [homelessness] crisis that's happening in Montreal."

"This is Montreal. We're big on community and we're big on taking care of each other," Martin-Goodleaf said. "It's just getting out of control now."

The Goodleafs say the donation is worth making, even though the sum will take a toll on their finances. Since the start of the pandemic, the couple's business has been operating at 30 per cent.

Mary Martin-Goodleaf says she hopes the donation will inspire others to raise funds for the warming tent. (Submitted by Mary Martin-Goodleaf)

"Money can always be made back," she said. "This [cause] is at the forefront and it's more important right now to raise awareness."

Waiting for city's approval

Community members and groups have raised over $40,000 in just six days to set up the warming tent, says Resilience Montreal co-manager Nakuset.

"Intervention workers have travelled far to come and support, and people are making mittens and socks that we'll give at the tent — it's a completely different atmosphere than anything else that's existed and it's Indigenous-driven," she said. "People feel empowered to be part of it."

Staffing the warming tent with security guards and intervention workers from Innu communities for 14 days would require nearly $44,000. To keep the tent running until the end of March, Nakuset says she's counting on the City of Montreal to contribute.

"We are currently working with Nakuset from Resilience Montréal and our health partners to support them in setting up an outdoor and temporary heat stop at Cabot Square," said Geneviève Jutras, a spokesperson for the Mayor's office. 

If Montreal approves the project, Nakuset says the tent will be named in honour of André.

"We're all ready to go. We just need confirmation," she said. "This would be a beautiful example of reconciliation if they allow us to go ahead with it."

with files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak