Montreal Turned an Old Hospital into Shelter for the Homeless

It's too cold in Canada to sleep outside

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In a move to provide shelter for homeless people, and their pets, Montreal has transformed the historic Royal Victoria hospital that closed in 2015 into a temporary homeless shelter so that no one has to sleep outside in the cold.

The temporary refuge from the cold Canadian winter was opened on January 15 and has 80 beds available. The shelter will serve as an overflow space that will be used when all other resources in the city are full.

“No one should be outside right now. Everyone deserves a roof,” Montreal mayor Valérie Plante told CBC Canada News.

Unfortunately, this winter, most of the shelters were full and people were being left out in the cold. “What we were hearing is that despite the winter measures we put into place, they were at full capacity. Some of them had no more room, a lot of people who have animals, which are very important to people in situations of homelessness, didn’t have a place to sleep or a place to warm up,” Rosannie Filato, the Montreal executive committee member responsible for homelessness told The Montreal Gazette.

The new shelter will be bare bones and only meant to be used for sleeping, there will be no showers or food.  The facility will be co-managed by four nonprofit organizations: The Old Brewery Mission, Maison du Pere, Welcome Hall Mission and Accueil Bonneau in partnership with the board and the city. The shelter will only be open until April 15.

While most shelters have restrictions based on gender and do not allow pets and often have strict rules about intoxication, this shelter will accept pets and people with addictions or mental health issues will be prioritized for acceptance according to The Montreal Gazette.

"The key thing for everyone to know is that this is only available to people once the shelters are full," Welcome Hall Mission CEO Sam Watts told CBC. "It's not the place that you can go and stand outside and hope you get a bed. That's not the way it's going to work."

In fact, Welcome hall mission has a shuttle in place to get people to the Royal Victoria when they are referred there from other shelters.

This is just a temporary fix until the spring and long-term solutions are still necessary. “We’ve been able to move forward quickly on creating this emergency unit for homeless people,” said Plante, to CBC. “Of course, this is for this winter, but what is a positive sign is knowing that our administration wants to find a solution on the long-term.”

"We have to look at the long term," Filato said. "It's really essential that we do. That's what we hear from our community-based groups."

This was a right move for the city to do in the short term but other cities in North America are trying more permanent solutions like tiny homes or linked housing with employment. Long term solutions have to become a priority because housing should be a right and not a privilege.

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