It’s 7:30 am and Sébastien Dussault, counsellor at the Old Brewery Mission, is meeting with his colleagues on the second floor of the Mission’s J.A. De Sève Pavilion. He’s part of the Mission’s new Suivi intensif en itinérance (SII) team, headed by the CHUM Hospital.
Sébastien’s day may begin at the pavilion, but more often than not, he can be found on Montreal’s public transit system searching for homeless men and women seeking refuge from the cold winter months. “When I first starting doing this work, I went out and bought a heavy pair of winter boots, not realizing I’d be spending a lot of my time in the metro,” he says.
The metro is where Sébastien has found many homeless people who refuse to take part in the Mission’s programs, let alone use its emergency services. As he sees it, his job is to gain their trust and convince them to accept the Mission’s help.
“These are people who have been living on the streets for years, even decades,” he says. “They are chronically homeless and, in most cases, suffering from some form of mental illness. They’ve effectively lost touch with reality.”
It’s all too easy for these people to fall between the cracks; they don’t cause a disturbance and generally go unnoticed. Sébastien works hard to bring the Mission’s resources to them so they can start to reclaim their lives. These resources include a CHUM psychiatrist who will meet with a homeless person exactly where they’re at—under a bridge, in an alleyway or wherever that person feels most comfortable.
According to Sébastien, the Mission’s partnerships are the key to its success. “My work is supported by a network of health and outreach professionals, nurses and social workers all working towards the same goal: To get vulnerable individuals safely off the streets and into a permanent home environment.”
With their involvement, Sébastien believes firmly in the possibility of ending chronic homelessness in Montreal.