Concerted action during recent cold snap averted disaster for unhoused people, but long-term solutions are needed.
The recent extreme cold snap, however short-lived, could have been disastrous for city’s growing population of unhoused people. The opposite happened. The community and governmental sectors worked together seamlessly to protect our city’s most vulnerable people from this severe weather event. Non-profit organizations allowed residents to stay in their facilities for longer hours. The City of Montreal and local Montreal health agency, the CIUSSS Centre-Sud, opened up 100 additional spaces to provide overnight accommodations to people with no other place to turn. Even hospital ERs were on call to not discharge unhoused patients into the cold weather. Everything worked last weekend.
In the last two years, people died in our streets. Raphael André, Elisapie Pootoogook, and Stella Stosik perished tragically in different parts of downtown Montreal during the winters of 2021 and 2022.
It hasn’t happened this year as a result of the collaborative efforts of every player involved in the fight against homelessness. It is heartening to see what can be accomplished when everyone is pitching in, when it’s a matter of life and death.
That’s the good news. The sobering news is that the fight against homelessness rages on.
The collective effort to reverse the upward trend in homelessness is ongoing because there aren’t enough affordable, suitable housing units in Montreal. The tents and encampments that are springing up in many Canadian cities, including Montreal, are emblematic of a collective failure to implement long-term solutions.