Emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Men: 514-798-2244 | Women: 514-526-6446

Meet Solange Lavigne, Codirector of women's services, clinical component

05 October 2023

“The proportion of gender diverse people among people experiencing visible homelessness increased 1.7 times between the 2018 and 2022 counts.” Here is a troubling observation given to us by the latest count report of visible homeless people (p. 279). The report also notes that “LGBTQ+ young people, and in particular trans and non-binary young people, should therefore be the subject of particular attention when it comes time to define prevention measures.» At the Old Brewery Mission, we have opened our doors to them since 2014. Solange Lavigne, co-director of women's services, explains to us why it is so important to adapt our services to their different needs.

The two citations are our translation since the document is only available in French.

What are the responsibilities associated with your position at the Old Brewery Mission?

My role as co-director of women's services is to provide support to our staff who work very hard every day to provide quality services. I have a responsibility to ensure that we have all the tools necessary to help the women that need it. I am frequently walking through the different programs, and I strive to be present on a regular basis in the field. I address each resident by their first name. This helps me better determine who we are helping and how we can continue to improve by providing services that meet all needs.

What have you learned since working in women’s services?

I started working in women's services in 2004. You quickly learn that there are rarely simple solutions for everyone. Many gray areas constantly present themselves, since each resident is different and has specific needs. It forces us to explore new horizons, to think a little outside the box. We must adjust our services to each person’s needs. To do this, we must get to know them. Appearances are often not what they seem. We can't just go by our impressions.

Are changes needed to accommodate the trans and non-binary community?

When we see a shift in the communities who present themselves or when we see a societal need, we need to consider the idea that maybe it’s time to do things differently. This year, women's services hit their 25-year mark. Over the past 19 years, I have seen that we have had to adapt our services many times to stay current, relevant, and hopefully lead in providing equity so that our participants can achieve equality. When we see communities emerging that we may not have had the chance to work as much with, we must seize the opportunity to help.

What do you think about the women's pavilion being located in the village?

Being situated in the middle of the village means we have often been called on to welcome users that might not otherwise “fit “in other accommodations. It has been mentioned before that our women’s services are very “tolerant”.  I take issue with that statement. We have a growing trans and non-binary community presenting themselves at our doors, and the last thing anyone wants is to be simply tolerated. Being accepted and welcomed, however, can make all the difference between creating that link needed to help them get this rolling.

Inscrivez-vous à notre infolettre