Quebec City mayor, community groups call on residents to be more tolerant toward homeless people

Quebec City police say they have seen an increase in noise complaints since the Lauberivière homeless shelter moved to the city's St-Roch neighbourhood.

Quebec City police have seen increase in noise complaints since homeless shelter arrived

Quebec City's newest homeless shelter has raised concerns in the neighbourhood of St-Roch. (Susan Campbell/CBC)

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume and several community organizers are calling on residents and businesses in the city's St-Roch neighbourhood to show more compassion for the homeless people in the area. 

Labeaume's calls come after several complaints were made, following the arrival of Quebec City's largest homeless shelter, Lauberivière, in the neighbourhood. 

In a news conference Wednesday, Labeaume announced several measures to make residents in the area feel more comfortable, but asked that Quebecers be more tolerant of those experiencing homelessness. 

"No one decides to become homeless," said Labeaume. "The vast majority of people in the streets are there because of a life journey full of difficulty." 

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume is asking the people of Quebec City to be more tolerant of and patient with people experiencing homelessness. (Carl Boivin/Radio-Canada)

Labeaume added that it is especially important for people to show empathy, as the pandemic has led to an increase in homelessness. He also says the reports that people who are experiencing homelessness have been wreaking havoc on the neighborhood are exaggerated. 

He announced a few changes coming to the area in an effort to make sure people can better coexist. 

The city is installing more chemical toilets for people whose access to public washrooms has been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city will also be adding more teams of intervention workers to help guide homeless people to nearby available resources, and will also increase the lighting in neighbourhood parks at night and send out teams to clean up graffiti in the area.

Increase in complaints 

Quebec City police Insp. André Turcotte says he has seen a jump in complaints from people who live close to the Lauberivière shelter, but says the complaints have been for non-dangerous and minor things like noise and "not for assaults." 

"The SPVQ is sensitive to the situation of homelessness in Quebec and to the well-being of the residents of St-Roch," said Turcotte. 

The local police force has added a team of about 30 officers to patrol downtown Quebec City, in order to follow up on citizen complaints and work with community organizations. 

Lauberivière director says shelter is solution, not problem

Éric Boulay, director of the Lauberivière shelter, says the establishment serves some 5,000 people every year. 

He said he understands residents are concerned, but says they have no real reason to be. 

"It's uncomfortable to see people suffering and suffering in the street," said Boulay, adding that while some of the behaviour his clients exhibit might bother their new neighbours, his clients are really not dangerous. 

"Not eating and not sleeping would be a much more serious problem," he said.  "Lauberivière is not a problem. We are really part of the solution."

Lauberivière director Éric Boulay sympathizes with his new neighbours, but says his clients are not dangerous. (Susan Campbell/CBC)

Jimena Michea, a co-ordinator with the Regroupement pour l'aide aux itinérants et itinérantes de Québec, a collective of community groups that serve the homeless population, also says Quebecers should not paint everyone experiencing homelessness with the same brush.

She says the people the organizations serve all come from different backgrounds and unique situations. 

"There is no magic solution [to homelessness]," said Michea. "Yes, we need to work on immediate intervention, but we also need to work, with our partners, on different levels of prevention." 

She added that prevention would include ensuring people are given the resources they need when they come out of detention centres or youth services. 

"We have to make sure that people don't become homeless, and the pandemic has made things even more precarious for those who are in unstable housing, so we need everyone's support," Michae said. 

With files from Susan Campbell