The Old Brewery Mission has transformed its traditional shelter services into a new homeless response system that aims to prevent chronic homelessness and instead, rapidly move people out of homelessness and into stable supported housing. This innovative approach differs from a traditional shelter in a few key ways: there are immediate assessments to address factors that have led to housing instability or homelessness; shelter seekers proactively take part in their own reintegration into the community; and people don’t have to be out the door the next morning—they can stay all day as they get back on their feet.
“The traditional shelter system helps ‘in the moment,’ but it’s not a long-term solution for ending homelessness,” says Eric Maldoff, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Montreal’s most vulnerable citizens will always need a hot meal and a safe place to sleep, which the Old Brewery Mission will continue to provide, but they also require access to targeted housing, health and psychosocial support programs. We’re maintaining an open door while providing quicker paths to permanent housing and ongoing support to ensure people remain housed.”
“This proactive, housing-focused approach represents a monumental shift in the way we respond to the needs of Montreal’s homeless,” says Matthew Pearce, President and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission. “Traditional shelters tend to reinforce and perpetuate the problem of homelessness by solely focusing on providing life’s necessities with no system in place to effectively engage homeless people and the greater community in the reintegration process. After 128 years of operations, it was time for the Old Brewery Mission to adopt a new emergency service model.”
The homeless response system is a continuation of the Mission’s ongoing efforts to introduce sustainable solutions to end chronic homelessness. In 2012, the Mission created Accueil, a program designed specifically for people experiencing homelessness for the first time. Through Accueil, newcomers to the Mission are quickly assessed and offered the support and help they need to find safe and appropriate housing options, as well as address critical health needs and barriers to obtaining a stable income. Last year, 509 homeless individuals took part in the program, with nearly 75% regaining their footing.
Over the years, the Old Brewery Mission has also worked to foster sustainable partnerships with private- and public-sector stakeholders, including the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), the Douglas University Mental Health Institute, the Société d’Habitation de Québec, the Office Municipal d’Habitation de Montréal, as well as private property owners. Thanks to these efforts, the Mission now has more than 300 housing units throughout the city of Montreal. Today, clients can choose between various options, from residing in a supportive group environment where medical assistance and counselling are readily available, to living in a rent-subsidized apartment in a neighbourhood of their choice.
Increasingly, the Old Brewery Mission works in close collaboration and coordination with other local homeless organizations such as Maison du Père, Welcome Hall Mission and Accueil Bonneau. These resources, and others, will help ensure the success of this new homeless response system and all those who make use of the Old Brewery Mission’s services.