Win­ter ne­ces­si­tates bet­ter resurces for the home­less

The McGill Daily - - Contents - —The Mcgill Daily Ed­i­to­rial Board

For peo­ple liv­ing in Mon­treal, win­ter is a dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence that im­pacts in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties dif­fer­ently based on fac­tors like class, ac­ces­si­bil­ity, and in­fra­struc­ture. Win­ter can limit phys­i­cal mo­bil­ity, in­ter­fere with plumb­ing and heat­ing in­fras­truc­tures, and ex­ac­er­bate ill­ness, among other things. In the Mcgill com­mu­nity, some of us are priv­i­leged to be able to eas­ily adapt to the harsh con­di­tions. In con­trast, win­ter can be dan­ger­ous – and of­ten life-threat­en­ing – for dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, in par­tic­u­lar peo­ple im­pacted by poverty and home­less­ness. It is cru­cial that the city im­prove the re­sources and ac­co­mo­da­tions it of­fers them through­out the sea­son.

In 2015, a Mon­treal Home­less Cen­sus recorded a to­tal of 3,016 peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness. This record is based on a count of peo­ple liv­ing on the streets, which does not ac­cu­rately ac­count for hid­den home­less­ness— liv­ing with­out a per­ma­nent ad­dress. Com­mu­nity groups es­ti­mate a much higher pop­u­la­tion of 20,000 peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing all forms of home­less­ness in the greater Mon­treal area. In re­sponse to the ex­treme weather, Mon­treal is said to have in­vested $778,000 in emer­gency re­sources for the home­less, lead­ing to 925 more spots in shel­ters and 20 com­mu­nity out­reach work­ers to fa­cil­i­tate the process. Shel­ters like the Old Brew­ery Mis­sion also em­ploy an overnight shut­tle ser­vice that trans­ports those in need to the emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tions. In ad­di­tion, the So­ci­ete de trans­port de Mon­treal (STM) al­lows those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness to take shel­ter in avail­able sta­tions, which can pro­vide tem­po­rary re­lief.

While these mea­sures ap­pear to pro­vide a short­term so­lu­tion, they are the bare min­i­mum that the city of Mon­treal can en­sure. The STM can only keep sta­tions open to those who need shel­ter dur­ing op­er­at­ing hours, as main­te­nance is done overnight. The Old Brew­ery Mis­sion shel­ter runs a shut­tle bus that op­er­ates to send peo­ple liv­ing on the streets to emer­gency shel­ter spa­ces, but the few shel­ters open 24/7 only op­er­ate dur­ing emer­gency weather con­di­tions. Of­ten, shel­ters are forced to turn peo­ple away due to lack of funds and re­sources. In ad­di­tion, shel­ters are some­times not a vi­able op­tion for those who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, for rea­sons such as the pos­si­bil­ity of con­tract­ing ill­nesses. These is­sues are of­ten ig­nored by the author­i­ties; for in­stance, po­lice are al­lowed to force peo­ple on the streets into a shel­ter for the night. Mon­treal also fea­tures hos­tile ar­chi­tec­ture, such as benches de­signed with mid­dle arm­rests, re­stricted spa­ces in bus stops, and stool seats in STM sta­tions, which pre­vent home­less peo­ple from sleep­ing or rest­ing in pub­lic spa­ces.

It is up to the newly elected Mon­treal city coun­cil to meet the needs of this vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially in the win­ter. Dur­ing the 2017 cam­paign, prom­ises were made re­gard­ing as­sis­tance to the home­less; how­ever, the cur­rent may­or­ship, led by Va­lerie Plante, has re­cently re­vealed a $318-mil­lion short­fall in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bud­get left by Coderre’s lead­er­ship. While Va­lerie Plante’s mu­nic­i­pal party, Pro­jet Mon­tréal, has a home­less­ness plat­form, its ef­fi­cacy is lim­ited by this short­fall, and the plat­form has out­lined no promis­ing plans thus far. We there­fore call on Pro­jet Mon­tréal to ac­knowl­edge the ur­gency of the is­sue, strengthen their pol­icy on home­less­ness in con­sul­ta­tion with com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, and im­ple­ment con­crete and rapid mea­sures that of­fer sup­port to one of Mon­treal’s most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions dur­ing dire weather con­di­tions. In­di­vid­u­als can con­trib­ute to this ef­fort by vol­un­teer­ing or do­nat­ing their money or re­sources; below is a list of sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tions for home­less in­di­vid­u­als in the city.

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