With the arrival of the cold weather and the sanitary measures in place due to the pandemic, we’ve stepped up our efforts to keep every homeless Montrealer safe and healthy by emphasizing new, low-barrier services* and access to permanent housing.
“The pandemic has brought to light the precarious situation that homeless people are in. For them, it’s a crisis within a crisis,” explained James Hughes, President and CEO of the Mission and Co-Chair of the Canadian Shelter Transformation Network. “The ultimate goal of our winter emergency measures is to make sure that every person who walks through our doors in the next few months either has permanent housing or is in the process of finding it. Adequate housing protects people from the cold and from COVID-19. But more important than that, it’s essential to restoring their sense of dignity and making them feel like they’re valued members of our community who have something to contribute.”
Located just a few steps away from Old Montreal, the Mission’s Saint-Laurent Campus is the hub for its homelessness programs and services. It is made up of:
Since December 1, the Old Brewery Mission’s Café Mission Keurig (906 boul. Saint-Laurent) has been transformed into a warming centre and overnight respite site, providing homeless people with a new low-barrier option where they can safely stay.
According to Émilie Fortier, Director of Services at the Mission’s Saint-Laurent Campus, the warming centre and low-barrier services are an important addition to the winter emergency measures. “The warming centre is designed to meet the needs of homeless people who tend to avoid shelters with very strict rules. Often, people with undiagnosed physical and mental health problems fall through the cracks. However, by providing them with a safe, welcoming place with few barriers to service access, we create an opportunity to start a conversation, build trust, and introduce them to services that can help them get off the street.”
The warming centre at Café Mission Keurig is also where the Old Brewery Mission’s intervention workers will screen for potential candidates for the managed alcohol program at the former Royal Victoria Hospital, which will start in January; it will be run by intervention workers from the Mission and a team from the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’île-de-Montréal.
To give homeless people a safe place to quarantine, the Old Brewery Mission has opened an isolation centre at the former Royal Victoria Hospital, in partnership with the City of Montreal, public health authorities, and other homeless-serving agencies. This centre minimizes the risk of the virus spreading among Montreal’s homeless population and to the community at large.
Nearly 200 beds are available there for homeless men and women, including about 40 beds for those awaiting screening results or who have tested positive for COVID-19, and 160 for individuals participating in the Transition to Housing program.
This year, the STM generously agreed to loan the Mission a bus, which has been converted into the Solidaribus. Since late November, it has been providing regular shuttle services for homeless people to emergency shelters and the various intake services, including the overflow unit at Hôtel Place Dupuis, and after the metro stations close for the night. With a worker from the Mission on board, this bus provides safe transport for over 100 people each night who need a safe place to stay warm, rest and access support services. The Solidaribus is a welcome addition to the Mission’s regular shuttle, which has been operating for several years now.
The Old Brewery Mission’s programs are designed to ensure that periods of homelessness are as brief as possible, to enable people to quickly stabilize their situation and find safe, affordable and permanent housing. The Mission is looking to expand its offering of 322 housing options and continues to work with its partners to transform winter emergency measures into sustainable housing solutions.
* Services that relax the rules and procedures that would typically limit access by clients with more complex substance abuse and mental health issues. This generally means that there are few or no admission criteria, and that people can access these services while intoxicated.