Old church finds new purpose as social housing site in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

Community group plans to create low-rent apartments for families and seniors.

Community group plans to create low-rent apartments for families and seniors

Le PAS de la rue hopes to have the project completed by 2019. (Le Pas de la rue)

A community outreach group in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has a plan to turn an old, empty church into a social housing site for at-risk families and seniors.

The group, Le PAS de la rue, plans to convert the old Saint-Victor Church in the Tétreaultville area into 40 low-rent housing units for homeless seniors.
Robert Beaudry is the director of Le PAS de la rue in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. (Radio-Canada)

The $15-million construction project, which will preserve the church's original facade and bell tower, will also develop an adjacent building into 35 units for families in need.

"We want to bring people who are in precarious living situations into these units, but alongside a family cooperative that is going to be right next door. We want to create a diverse social network that promotes living together, support and solidarity," said Robert Beaudry, the group's director.

He says it's important that the plan do more than just house people, but significantly improve their quality of life as well.

"We don't want to just create housing and put isolated people in it," he said. "We're going to end up with people who are between four walls, with a roof over their heads, but they're not going to have improved their living conditions."
The facade and bell tower from Saint-Victor Church will be integrated into the new development. (Radio-Canada)

Le PAS de la rue already runs a drop-in centre in the borough, and Beaudry says that more and more often, it's seniors aged 50 and up who are turning to the organization for help.

He says this is due in part to the aging population in the area, but that its also a reflection of the bigger picture of homelessness in Montreal.

A study produced by the city in 2015 showed that nearly 50 per cent of people staying in emergency shelters were aged 50 and over, and that 44 per cent of those sleeping unsheltered on the street fit that description as well.

A breakdown of the Montreal homeless population by age and housing situation. (City of Montreal Homelessness Survey 2015)

On a local level, Le PAS de la rue reports more than 10,000 visits a year to their day centres and front-line resources, more than 60 per cent of which are people aged 55 and over. 

The project, which is still waiting on approval, aims to open its doors in 2019.

With files from Sarah Leavitt, Olivier Bachand