Montreal bar owner wages war on homeless people

A Montreal bar owner has formed a coalition to help him run homelessness away from downtown.
Peter Sergakis, known restaurant owner in the Ville-Marie borough, heads a new business coalition to get rid of homeless people. (CBC)

Peter Sergakis, owner of a dozen bars and restaurants in Montreal, has formed a coalition of business owners to help him run homelessness away from downtown.

The businessman owns establishments like Sky Pub and Station des Sports, in the Ville-Marie borough. He hopes the coalition of businesspeople and Ville-Marie residents for public safety will help clear the streets of homeless people.

On Aug.1, Sergakis said three "squeegee kids" hopped onto the terrace at Station des Sports on Sainte-Catherine Street and refused to leave.

"One of them didn't like it and started breaking everything up," he said. "Before that, he threatened that he was going to kill me as well."

Sergakis said he went after the male and called police.

The restaurateur also blames homeless people for stealing food from his customers' plates as recently as two weeks ago.

He said the provincial government has the responsibility to solve the problem and should spend more money to hire more police officers to patrol the streets.

During a news conference on Monday, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay said that if Sergakis had ideas to bring forward, the city's administration would be willing to listen and implement these thoughts in its current plan against homelessness.

"I think that the business community is entitled to be able to generate revenues and operate their businesses with the least inconveniences as possible," he said.

Aki Tchitacov, executive director of Dans La Rue, an outreach centre for homeless people, said increased police presence might not be the answer to Sergakis' troubles. He said the population and the services made available to help them are already being driven away from the downtown area.

"You need more adapted services, psychiatric services for example. There are inadequate services for the normal population, never mind the population on the fringe," he said.

Tchitavoc said it is important to get the proper perspective and determine how important these incidents are before taking action and pushing people without shelter away from the city core.