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COVID situation among homeless people: Soccer stadium is no longer a COVID isolation facility

11 February 2022

MONTREAL, February 11, 2022 – After housing 310 homeless people in isolation zones for stays ranging from 6 to 10 days between January 13 and February 6, 2022, the Stade de soccer de Montréal is no longer being used as a shelter, as the situation has stabilized among people experiencing homelessness in Montreal. As of today, the services provided at the stadium by Old Brewery Mission staff will resume at the COVID-19 isolation zone in the Abri du Voyageur, which has a capacity of 70 beds.

The isolation zone at the Abri du Voyageur was set up early in the pandemic, in August 2020, with the collaboration of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal and the Centre de coordination des mesures d’urgence (CCMU) de l’agglomération de Montréal, jointly responsible for emergency measures, to accommodate homeless people who tested positive for COVID. The facility offers a safe environment, lodging, meals, personal hygiene products, substance use support, liaison with pharmacies, and staff to provide support during isolation. All of these services were duplicated at the Stade de soccer de Montréal when it was enlisted to create isolation facilities for homeless people and provide an additional 320 beds, with a possibility of 350, starting January 13, 2022.

With the number of homeless people testing positive decreasing, it is now possible to return to Abri voyageur, the original location. “From December 1, 2021 to February 6, 2022, 634 people experiencing homelessness were hosted at the various isolation zone sites for stays ranging from 6 to 10 days. Testing was ramped up and all the community based partners demonstrated an ability to adjust in order to manage outbreaks at their services in the middle of winter, despite labour shortages,” says Émilie Fortier, Director of Homelessness Services at the Old Brewery Mission’s St. Laurent Campus. “As a result, the situation has now stabilized.”

Using the Stade de soccer de Montréal was an emergency stop-gap measure to deal with the dramatic increase in COVID cases among people experiencing homelessness during the 5th wave of the pandemic. “Coping with this challenge would not have been possible without the support and responsiveness of our key partners,” says James Hughes, President and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission. “We want to acknowledge the contributions of the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du CentreSud- de-l’Île-de-Montréal, the agglomeration of Montreal, Montreal Public Health and the Red Cross. A special thank you to the personnel involved in implementing the emergency measures for their agility and solidarity in the face of crisis, and to all the people in the health system and the community networks who were ready and willing to support us during this period.”

“The concerted efforts of one and all made it possible to provide a safe environment for people experiencing homelessness and to deliver appropriate services during one of the most critical periods of the pandemic,” says Sonia Bélanger, President and CEO of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. “We thank everyone who pitched in get this temporary shelter up and running in record time.”

For the second time in two years, the Red Cross stepped up to support the joint effort to provide this safe space. “Our people helped set up the facility and deliver the services, and they’ll be there to help pack up,” says Pascal Mathieu, Vice-President of the Canadian Red Cross. “We will continue supporting the effort and our partners, because we believe in the chain of solidarity and expertise that has been created for people experiencing homelessness.”

According to Josefina Blanco, the member of the City of Montreal Executive Committee responsible for diversity, social inclusion, homelessness and universal accessibility, the pandemic and the Omicron variant created a critical situation in recent weeks in Montreal: “However, we managed to leave no one behind thanks to a tireless team effort, in conjunction with the health system and community organizations. With the situation now stabilizing, I want to thank, once again, the community organizations and staff who have been on the front lines, day and night, to help maintain people’s safety and dignity. We will always be there to respond to emergency situations, and we must continue working together to put in place sustainable emergency shelter and social housing solutions for the most vulnerable members of our community.”

About the Old Brewery Mission

Founded in 1889, the Old Brewery Mission is the largest resource in Quebec for homeless men and the largest in Canada for homeless women. The Mission works to prevent homelessness in Quebec and provides emergency services, psychosocial support, urban health programs, housing options and support in the community. It also participates in research projects and conducts public awareness campaigns. Designed to eliminate chronic homelessness in Montreal, the Mission’s approach emphasizes access to permanent housing rather than temporary shelter space. Every year, the Old Brewery Mission helps thousands of people rebuild their lives.

For more information, visit www.missionoldbrewery.ca.

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