Montreal

Montreal homeless count 'helps people to be aware'

An army of volunteers walked through Montreal’s streets on Tuesday night, visiting metro stations, homeless shelters and transition homes to get a better sense of the number of homeless people in the city.

800 volunteers visited metro stations and transition homes on first night of survey

Volunteers interviewed people like Victor Derry, who says he has lived on the street for 15 years. (Tanya Birkbeck/CBC)

An army of volunteers walked through Montreal’s streets on Tuesday night, visiting metro stations, homeless shelters and transition homes. 

And they asked every single person, "Do you have a place to stay tonight?"

The survey, organized by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Research Centre, along with partners including the YMCAs of Quebec, aims to get a better idea of how many people actually live on the street.

A census of the homeless population has been done in other North American cities, but never in Montreal.

There will always be somebody without a place to live because some people do not like society, and society does not like them.- Victor Derry, homeless for more than 15 years

"If you want to seriously tackle the issue of homelessness, you have to have a method for tracking the phenomenon over time," Eric Latimer, the McGill University researcher responsible for the survey, told CBC.

Volunteers interviewed people such as Victor Derry, who has been homeless more than 15 years. He said the survey was a good idea.

Eric Latimer, the researcher responsible for the homelessness survey, says it will give policy-makers a better sense of the problem. (Tanya Birkbeck/CBC)
"It gives people a general idea of what being homeless is about," Derry said, though he was skeptical homelessness could be eradicated.

"There will always be somebody without a place to live because some people do not like society, and society does not like them. Basically they clash. That's all."

Volunteers will continue the count on Wednesday and Thursday night.

Lisa Marie Scolack, an outreach worker with the Saint Michael's Mission and one of the survey volunteers, said she's hopeful the census will shine light on the issue.

Caitlin Murphy, crisis worker at Saint Michaels Mission

8 years ago
Duration 4:08
Debra Arbec chats with Caitlin Murphy, a team leader for "I Count Montreal" -- a census of the city’s homeless people

"With a number, it always helps people to be aware of the situation," Scolack told Daybreak

"It allows us to say what are the resources we have right now, and what's working and what's not working,"

The City said it will take several weeks to compile the census data and analyze the results. The final report will be submitted before the summer.

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