Montreal

Quebec's $280M effort to fight homelessness won't be enough, advocates say

The Quebec government is investing $280 million over the next five years in sheltering homeless people immediately, and in a long-term effort to prevent homelessness among at-risk populations.

Junior health minister looks to establish stable funding for organizations fighting homelessness

The new plan was outlined Monday by Lionel Carmant, Quebec's junior health minister, who said the province intends to consolidate shelters. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government is investing $280 million over the next five years in sheltering homeless people immediately, and in a long-term effort to prevent homelessness among at-risk populations.

The plan is called S'allier devant l'itinerance, which roughly translates to "united against homelessness" and the funding is to be spread out across the province.

It was outlined Monday by Lionel Carmant, Quebec's junior health minister, who made the announcement at the old Hotel Dieu hospital — one of the sites that was turned into a homeless shelter during the pandemic as the demand for services spiked.

Carmant said he's hoping to establish stable funding for those organizations that fight homelessness 

"We intend to consolidate shelters beyond the winter period for a period of 12 months, but we also want to accompany more people who are living in this situation toward autonomous living," he said.

The plan includes $77 million for those who are currently or at risk of becoming homeless, and another $14 million toward reducing homelessness among Indigenous people.

And $10 million is earmarked for homeless women.

"Throughout the year, there will be a place to be lodged. If the homeless person is ready to go further, towards independent housing, he will have the resources to support him," Carmant said.

Plan gets support from physicians

Quebec's action plan was developed following two years of consultations. The strategy, which includes about 30 measures, focuses more on prevention, in particular helping those leaving youth centres, prisons or addiction programs

For example, the plan provides rent subsidies to young people leaving youth centres, as well as funding to continue school.

The Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec (AMPQ), the province's association of psychiatric physicians, said the plan provides a clear and effective vision.

"It is an approach oriented toward prevention, support and inclusion," said Dr. Claire Gamache, president of AMPQ, in a statement.

"The government has put its priorities in the right place and is proposing a clear and balanced vision to fight homelessness."

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Advocates say more is needed to truly address problem

However, not everybody sees this investment as a cure-all to a problem that is only getting worse.

Nakuset, who heads Resilience Montreal, a day centre near the city's Cabot Square, said the boost in funding is always appreciated.

However, it's not enough, she said.

"It sounds like a really large number until you break it down by five years," she said.

"Once you break it down by five years you're like 'that's it? That's it?' And how many shelters are there and how many more need to be created?"

James Hughes, who runs the Old Brewery Mission downtown, agrees that Quebec is not investing enough money to end homelessness provincewide. 

But it's more money than has ever been invested before, he added, and enough to make a dent.

"We're really looking forward to seeing how this rolls out over time, seeing all the details of it, but today is a really good day for those in the homeless sector, and people living on the street," said Hughes.

Neila Ben Ayed, director of women's services at the Old Brewery Mission, said services for women who are experiencing homelessness have been underfunded for years.

So she's happy to see there is money specifically earmarked for women.

"We want to make sure as an organization that no women are living in the street and have adapted solutions for them," she said.

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