Advocates say fence erected around vacant downtown lot puts homeless people in danger
MONTREAL -- A fence around a vacant lot might not seem like a big deal, but to Annisee Papialuk it’s locking her out of the place she’s called home for 18 years.
Homeless advocates say the fence on Park Avenue is putting homeless people in danger.
“It really hurt me, because that was our place,” Papialuk said Monday.
A few doors down at the Open Door shelter in downtown Montreal there is a wall of portraits in memory of homeless people who’ve died, including Kitty Kakkinerk , who was struck by a car last summer.
There’s another photo of her in John Tessier's office. The clinical coordinator at Open Door shelter says she spent much of her time at that lot, which is now partially blocked by a fence since last year.
He says Kakkinerk was trying to flee an abuser and because she couldn’t get through the fence, she ran into the road and was hit by a truck and died.
“People who were used to hanging out in the lot, closer to the building, away from the street, really minding their own business for the most part, were pushed right next to the sidewalk, close to the street, and also with cars passing by,” said Tessier.
Now, he’s shocked to see that a fence has gone up blocking the entire property.
“The only place they can sit now is on the sidewalk or in the street. Absolutely, there is going to be another tragedy here if something isn’t done about this,” he said.
The company that owns the lot would not confirm it put up the fence.
Meanwhile, the city says it wasn’t notified that the fence would be installed. Wherever it came from, advocates say it will put vulnerable people at risk.
“They don’t have a place, they are living in the street. It's so sad,” said the shelter’s Luisa Ochola.
Papialuk says she’ll be staying in the area, even if that means on the sidewalk.
“We’re all Inuit. This is our street. Even though they put cages like that, we’re still here no matter what,” she said. “We fight for our rights.”