While the housing shortage in Gatineau continues to worsen, homeless people are organizing themselves as best they can before the onset of winter.
Robert Duguay, a 43-year-old man from New Brunswick, has spent the last six winters in a tent set up in the undergrowth on the edge of the Brewery stream which flows into the Ottawa River. There it faced the hostilities of the climate, even by minus 40.
Like many other homeless people, the Acadian admits to us that he is a drug addict and that his dependence on amphetamines (speed) and cannabis destroys his life, and prevents him from exercising the profession he loved.
During our meeting, he will go and fetch a dozen speed tablets from his pusher, which clumps with other homeless people, pills that he swallows every two or three hours.
“My check from bs [aide sociale] almost all of it, he says. About $ 700, out of a total of $ 740. “
Despite therapies and a knife attack which he claims to have been the victim of for a drug debt that is not his, the man admits with vexation that he is unable to stop using, to the point where he deprives himself of see her 12-year-old child, entrusted to a foster family.
“I had visiting rights, but I stopped that. I was making myself sick with that ”, candidly admits Robert Duguay, aware that he cannot provide the necessary support for the education of a child.
The director of the soup kitchen in Hull, Michel Kasongo, knows very well that most improvised campers have drug addiction or mental health problems and, according to him, we must change the approach towards this clientele.
“They need more than a place to stay and eat, these people need specialized services,” he said in an interview with the QMI Agency.
As the capacity of shelters is reduced during this pandemic period, the City of Gatineau has converted the Robert-Guertin Center, the home of the QMJHL Olympics (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), into a temporary shelter for the homeless.
As for the tents and makeshift camps erected by some homeless people, they are occasionally dismantled by municipal employees accompanied by social workers under the supervision of the police.
The City insists that homeless people choose accommodation resources already in place. A wishful thinking, however, since the camps reappear in the hours following their dismantling. Currently, there are about fifteen tents and shelters around the Robert-Guertin Center.
“I understand them in a way of wanting to dismantle the tents, but the problem is still there, then it grows from one year to the next”, specifies the camper Robert Duguay who hopes finally to be able to move in with his girlfriend before the winter in subsidized housing … and warm.