Montreal unveils $7.8M homeless action plan

Montreal's plan to finance a wet shelter, 950 more housing units and embark on other measures to ease the plight of the city's homeless wins the cautious support of community advocates.

New wet shelter, 950 more housing units, new homelessness census in the works

According to a survey completed in 2015, 3,016 people were living on the streets of Montreal. (CBC)

The City of Montreal will finance a new wet shelter and 950 more housing units as part of its plan to ease the plight of the city's homeless over the next three years.

The $7.8-million plan centres around four main axes:

  • Resources available to those on the street.
  • Housing for those who want to get off the street.
  • Greater safety for homeless people at welcome centres.
  • Tools to promote their social inclusion.

"This is a roadmap that aims to help our most vulnerable citizens break the stigma of homelessness or avoid having them fall through the cracks by offering them help adapted to their reality," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

To come up with the plan, the city consulted dozens of community organizations, municipal services and boroughs, as well as the people the plan targets, the homeless themselves.

The first step is to conduct another homelessness census to get firmer idea of how many people are living on the street and what resources they need most.

Montreal published its first homelessness census under the Coderre administration in 2015. The survey found 3,016 people were living on the city's streets, three-quarters of whom were men.

The city will also increase training for police officers to lessen the likelihood of officers' targetting itinerants because of their homelessness.

The city is also backing the creation of a shelter where alcoholics who are homeless will be able to consume alcohol in a managed way, as CBC reported on Tuesday.

The executive director of the Welcome Hall Mission, Sam Watts, says he's happy to hear the city is committed to new measures to help the homeless. (CBC)

Cautious optimism from community groups

While it all sounds great in writing, some community groups say, they hope that the Plante administration is able to actually tackle everything everything in its plan.

"It's a bit overwhelming, to be able to hear so much enthusiasm on the part of the City of Montreal," says George Ohana, the director of housing, urban health and research initiatives for the Old Brewery Mission.

"What are the deliverables?"

Sam Watts of the Welcome Hall Mission echoed those thoughts.

"The key question is can we do everything that's being set out in the plan," he said. "Is there really enough money to get the job done?" 

With files from Elias Abboud