Montreal | A camp to denounce… the dismantling of homeless camps

In addition to the pro-Palestinian camp set up at McGill University, other campers set up a dozen tents at Square Victoria, in downtown Montreal, on Tuesday evening, to denounce the dismantling of homeless encampments by the City, while there is a serious housing crisis.

It is expected that more and more tenants will find themselves homeless as the 1st July. However, Mayor Valérie Plante announced Wednesday that the City will devote 3.5 million to emergency assistance and accommodation for households in need, despite the fact that these services cost 4.2 million in 2023.

“The objective is to leave no one on the street,” said Plant at a press conference. “The number of requests increases from year to year. In 2019, 350 people called on the Operation 1 help serviceer July, and in 2023 there have been around 900.”


New camp at Square Victoria to denounce the housing crisis.

We expect a 10 to 15% increase in demand in 2024, said Despina Sourias, municipal councilor associated with housing on the executive committee.

Households who have not found new accommodation even though they have to move are entitled to support in finding a roof over their heads and to be accommodated in a hotel when they cannot find an apartment. These services are offered by the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM).

Homeless people excluded

The homeless, whether they live in camps or in shelters, are however excluded from these services, deplores Annie Savage, coordinator of the Support Network for Single and Itinerant People of Montreal (RAPSIM) and one of the organizers. from the camp to Square Victoria.

“They are told that they have their own support network. People who are already experiencing homelessness are told: “Sorry, this doesn’t apply to you”. After losing their accommodation, they only need to spend one night in a roaming resource, they are automatically excluded from operation 1er July. They are tipped towards the middle of homelessness, which is overflowing,” explains Mme Savage.

She recalls that, according to the count of homeless people carried out in 2023, evictions are the primary reason explaining homelessness.

Regarding the exclusion of the homeless from the OMHM assistance program, Valérie Plante responded that these people are indeed directed to homeless shelters.

“Yes, people find themselves homeless because they have lost their housing, but with homelessness, there can also be other problems. It can be linked to mental health, to addiction, there is often a greater complexity,” she said, admitting that shelters are often “at capacity” and that they are not environments ideal lives.

Stop dismantling

The campers who took control of Square Victoria are community workers who published a manifesto in which they demanded, among other things:

  • A moratorium on the dismantling of camps and makeshift shelters, as long as suitable alternatives are not deployed;
  • To involve people who live on the streets in the bodies that think about solutions and make decisions that concern them;
  • Access to sanitary facilities for these people (water, toilets, showers), waste collection, heated places in winter and air-conditioned in summer.
  • According to data compiled by The Press last December, the City dismantled at least 460 homeless encampments in 2023, including 420 in Ville-Marie. For this district alone, it is four times more than in 2021.

Read Homeless encampment in Montreal: more than 460 dismantlings

“These people are in the public space for lack of alternative, they don’t bother anyone, but it takes a lot of resources to dismantle them, every week or every month,” underlines Anick Desrosiers, psychosocial worker. “Since they have nowhere else to go, they either come back to exactly the same place, or they will settle in places where they will be even more precarious. »

The City of Montreal does not intend to change its practices regarding the dismantling of encampments, affirmed Valérie Plante. She reiterated that it was not “dignified” to let people live in these conditions and that the City was trying to support them “in a humane way” towards other resources, when it was time to evict them.

“These are extremely difficult situations, where many people are experiencing psychological distress,” she insisted. A camp is not a way of life: there is no water, no toilets, the question of security… There are people who almost died in camps because of the gas cylinder explosion, tent caught fire last year. »

Before finding themselves on the street, people at risk of losing their housing can contact 311 to be directed to OMHM services, which are available all year round.

The organization has received 176 requests for rehousing assistance since the start of 2024. Of this number, 13 households required temporary accommodation. Since 2020, around 880 requests for rehousing assistance have been received per year and more than a hundred households have been accommodated each year. For example, in 2023, 134 households were accommodated in hotels, for an average duration of 70 days.

Even if the City has announced 3.5 million to help these people for 2024, additional sums may be added if necessary, indicates a spokesperson for Mayor Plante.


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