Montreal

Montreal women's shelters decry funding disparity that gives men's shelters more

Two of Quebec's largest women's homeless shelters say they're getting only a fraction of the provincial funding that men's shelters are allotted and they're calling on the government to rectify the inequity.

The needs of women living on the streets differ from men's, organizations stress

Marcèle Lamarche, left, executive director of the Le Chaînon women’s shelter in Montreal, demonstrates the provincial funding allocation to the province's shelters with slices of bread. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

Two of Quebec's largest women's homeless shelters say they're getting only a fraction of the provincial funding that men's shelters are allotted and they're calling on the government to rectify the inequity.

Since 2009, men's shelters have drawn about 50 per cent of their funding from the province, while women's facilities are given less than 10 per cent, said Marcèle Lamarche, executive director of the Le Chaînon women's shelter in Montreal.

"We need to be recognized as the most important women's shelters in Quebec and also the poorest ones because of the government," she told CBC's Daybreak.

Lamarche said more than 90 per cent of her operational budget comes from funds raised by the organization and donations.

That reality means much more effort has to be directed toward generating funds to ensure the 85-year-old shelter can continue its operations, she said.

'There is discrimination'

An emailed statement from the office of Lucie Charlebois, the minister responsible for public health, said the government has made significant investments in addressing issues surrounding homelessness and that it's difficult to compare men's and women's facilities since the number of their clients differ as do their services.

"It is true," Lamarche said of the women's facilities. "We do not have bunkers, we offer beds and we offer hygiene products because they are women. The needs, the demand are not the same."

According to figures provided by Charlebois' office, Montreal's three men's shelters receive $4.3 million annually and this winter offered 740 emergency beds in addition to other services. 

Montreal's shelters for homeless women received $700,000 in recurrent funding and this winter had 110 emergency beds as well as other services. They also received $300,000 in non-recurring funding. 

Le Chaînon and the Old Brewery Mission's Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion say they recognize that they are serving a smaller population, but funding should be appropriately distributed between all organizations offering services to the homeless population.

"It's not comparing how many homeless women or men, it's comparing place to place and there is discrimination," Lamarche said.

She said there is also a disparity in how much the two shelters are funded per bed compared to other similar women's organizations in the province. 

From left: Oumou Kane, Chanelle Grenier and Kaye Carodo work for the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion, a Montreal shelter for women. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

Either way, Oumou Kane, who has worked as a counsellor at the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion for the past two years, says the lack of funding is noticeable. 

"We see there's a big difference," said Kane at the news conference the two shelters held Thursday morning. "The government really has to do something about it because the women need help and if we don't have enough funds, we can't help them as much as we could."

That includes women's hygiene products, longer-term beds and programs to help women come out of homelessness, according to Lamarche.

With files from CBC Daybreak and CBC reporter Verity Stevenson

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