MONTREAL -- Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante says she was sorry to learn of a new makeshift camp in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough, but has no intention of forcibly removing the homeless who have settled there, at least in the short term.

"I will continue to have a benevolent approach, as I have always done since the beginning of the pandemic, because we must not let people who do not 'fit' in one place or another find themselves over-judicialised," she said at a press conference on immigration Thursday in Montreal.

She noted that the pandemic has exacerbated the homelessness situation.

"All the big cities in the world are facing this increase in precariousness, especially with the COVID. Last summer, it was said that the number of people experiencing homelessness had doubled. That's a big deal," she said. 

"I think they need to be safe and that's what we're working on with the police, the fire department, community organizations."


The mayor recalled that her administration is working on sustainable solutions for people experiencing homelessness, whose numbers have increased as a result of the pandemic.

"The solution will always be permanent housing. It is not for nothing that we have a strategy of 600 social housing units that we will reach. We are at 80 per cent," the mayor said. 

"In the meantime, there are the shelters. There are more than 700 beds that will remain even if the winter is over because the needs are there."

The mayor acknowledged that there are "people who fall into the cracks," but she believes that "an encampment is never a solution, for safety reasons."

"Public space is for everyone. It's not a place where you should camp, where you should sleep. The focus should be on permanent housing," she said.

However, Plante said that "there is one thing that is clear: I do not want to make people who are struggling even more precarious."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2021.