Mon­treal’s mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment must take ac­tion to end home­less­ness

The McGill Daily - - Editorial -

As Mon­treal’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion draws closer, in­cum­bent can­di­date De­nis Coderre has made a point of ad­dress­ing the topic of home­less­ness at length. While Coderre’s em­pha­sis on the topic is laud­able, his po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing must be backed up by trans­par­ent and con­crete poli­cies to im­prove ex­ist­ing shel­ters and elim­i­nate law en­force­ment’s tar­get­ing of those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness.

A 2015 study com­mis­sioned by Coderre found that over 3,000 peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in Mon­treal (this par­tic­u­lar study doesn’t ac­count for those who lack a per­ma­nent ad­dress; for ex­am­ple, those liv­ing in ho­tels or with friends). Coderre has worked with the Move­ment to End Home­less­ness in Mon­treal (MMFIM) to cre­ate an ac­tion plan that aims to elim­i­nate home­less­ness in the city by 2020. He has sup­ported the MMFIM by grant­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion $140,000 an­nu­ally over a five-year pe­riod start­ing in 2015; how­ever, this sum of money is neg­li­gi­ble com­pared to the $39.5 mil­lion the com­bined fed­eral and mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments in­vested in light­ing the Jac­ques Cartier Bridge for Mon­treal’s 375th an­niver­sary. We must chal­lenge the city of Mon­treal to in­vest in its peo­ple rather than the colo­nial cel­e­bra­tion its an­niver­sary rep­re­sents, es­pe­cially since Indigenous peo­ple are over-rep­re­sented within the home­less pop­u­la­tion in Mon­treal.

While there have been other ini­tia­tives to ad­dress home­less­ness in Mon­treal, they are not enough. In 2016, the So­ciété de trans­port de Mon­tréal (STM) an­nounced ser­vice points in five metro sta­tions to give shel­ter to peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness. In 2014, Coderre called for the re­moval of “anti-home­less” spikes placed in store win­dows to pre­vent peo­ple from sit­ting and sleep­ing in front of the stores. Last week, as part of his elec­toral cam­paign, he an­nounced plans to im­ple­ment wet shel­ters, which are spa­ces where peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing both home­less­ness and al­co­hol de­pen­dency can re­ceive care from health pro­fes­sion­als. While city of­fi­cials have taken steps to im­prove liv­ing con­di­tions for those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, many com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions have crit­i­cized Coderre for only com­bat­ting these con­di­tions just be­fore the may­oral elec­tions. For ex­am­ple, the city’s ex­ist­ing shel­ters have been in dis­re­pair and of­ten dan­ger­ous for those who need them, yet noth­ing has been done to ad­dress this dur­ing Coderre’s term of of­fice.

Coderre had also pre­vi­ously both al­lowed and im­ple­mented poli­cies that crim­i­nal­ize home­less­ness. In 2015, the city closed Parc Ém­i­lie- Gamelin and la Place de la Paix, which re­sulted in the dis­place­ment of home­less pop­u­la­tions who were ac­cus­tomed to sleep­ing in these places. The en­act­ment of clos­ing hours in parks, typ­i­cally from 11p.m. to 6a.m., also en­ables ar­bi­trary polic­ing of these spa­ces, which usu­ally af­fects marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness. The mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment has tick­eted 65,000 home­less peo­ple over the last 15 years, in­clud­ing 30,000 in the last five years, for jay­walk­ing, for sit­ting in parks, or for other mi­nor of­fences. This re­lent­less tick­et­ing ef­fec­tively traps home­less peo­ple in a vi­cious cir­cle of debt.

We call on Coderre and the other can­di­dates to tackle the is­sue of home­less­ness be­yond pre-elec­toral tac­tics. They must take ac­tion against the ha­rass­ment per­pe­trated by the po­lice, change by­laws that crim­i­nal­ize home­less­ness, im­prove ex­ist­ing shel­ters, and sub­stan­tially in­crease the fund­ing ded­i­cated to end­ing home­less­ness in Mon­treal.

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