West Island outreach group gets $100K grant to fight homelessness
Action Jeunesse de l'Ouest-de-l'Île will hire two additional full-time councillors
A West Island outreach group says a federal grant is going to help it take a step in the right direction in the fight against homelessness.
Action Jeunesse de l'Ouest-de-l'Île (AJOI), which serves 10 different municipalities, signed a $109,000 grant on Thursday which it will use to fund an 18-month-long project. The project will see two additional full-time outreach street workers dedicated to providing support to youth who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.
The grant came from the federal government's Homelessness Partnering Strategy program.
AJOI has raised the alarm in the past about homelessness in the West Island. Benoit Langevin, the co-founder and general director of AJOI, said often people do not think it is a problem in the West Island.
"These kids are sleeping in the park, they're sleeping behind malls, they're sleeping at friend's houses," said Langevin, adding that most end up relocating to downtown.
He said that a recent census of Montreal's homeless population showed that 25 per cent of the city's young homeless came from suburban communities like the West Island.
- Groups demand homeless shelter and social housing in West Island
- West Island homelessness a growing concern
Precarious living arrangements
AJOI, which works with youth between the ages of 12 and 25, said in the past two years it's intervened in 205 cases of homelessness.
"We want to try to make sure they get a roof over their heads," said Langevin.
Langevin said many struggle to keep their precarious living conditions. He's seen situations where young women might be forced into prostitution to keep living where they are, or live in apartments with as many as 10 people to get by.
He also said some will also turn to crime, like selling drugs, to make rent.
At the moment AJOI employs eight other outreach workers who provide support for a number of social issues. They are on call and anyone who needs help can reach out, explained Langevin.
In the future, Langevin hopes to have some sort of shelter for anyone without a stable housing situation. But in the meantime, AJOI provides a shuttle service for anyone wanting to go to a shelter downtown or off island.
Part of AJOI's funding comes from the umbrella organization West Island Community Shares. CBC Montreal is raising money for West Island Community Shares during the 37th annual CBC Montreal Christmas Sing-In charity drive.