Questions remain over future of Montreal homeless camp

As winter approaches, critics are blasting Montreal’s mayor for being late in setting up emergency plans for the homeless, and wonder why it is taking so long.

Opposition City Councillor Benoit Langevin says he’s particularly worried about people who are living in tent encampments around the city, including one located at a green space next to Notre Dame Street East in the area around Adhémar-Raynault Park, in the borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where more than a hundred tents are pitched.

Read more: Montreal homeless advocates sound alarm as makeshift camps continue to appear around city

According to Environment Canada, some nighttime temperatures during the next seven days are expected to fall below zero, going as low as -5 C on Friday.

“Imagine sleeping right now in a tent trying to find heat, especially now that the shelters are full,” he told Global News.

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“An announcement hasn’t been made and the needs are absolutely there.”

On Oct. 21, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the city aims to double services usually offered to people who are homeless in winter.

“That means 400 additional emergency beds, drop-in centres and transportation shuttles to connect people to services will be offered,” she said during a news conference.

Read more: Coronavirus: Quebec announces $263M in aid to help Montreal offset financial losses

But with overnight temperatures going below zero in the coming days, Langevin charges that the city is late getting a plan together because it can take time to put things in place.

“I’m worried because non-profits take about 30 days to open a shelter,” he noted.  “You gotta hire some day staff, some night staff.”

Sam Watts, CEO and Executive Director for Welcome Hall Mission, confirmed a week ago that they are involved in the city’s plan, and agrees setting up a shelter has its challenges.

“It’s not just a matter of snapping your fingers and opening up a building,” he pointed out.

“This has to be done in the clear context of a pandemic.”

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He says details of the plan will be released in three days, but one source told Global News that one downtown Montreal hotel will be providing almost 400 rooms to the Welcome Hall Mission to use as shelters.

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