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Closure of Montreal homeless shelter met with relief, uncertainty in Chinatown

The City of Montreal says a homeless shelter in Chinatown will close, creating concerns about what will happen next.

For years, Chinatown residents say their neighbourhood was like a sanctuary just steps from downtown.

“It was nice, quiet and peaceful, and everybody enjoyed it here,” said Bill Wong, director general of the Montreal Chinatown Development Council.

But residents say that changed recently because of issues with drugs and the homeless population.

Two weeks ago, community members held a press conference to speak out about it. This week, the city announced that a homeless shelter out of the Guy-Favreau Complex will be relocated.

“It’s a big relief for the community. I think that for the residents and the merchants, they can’t close the shelter fast enough,” said May Chiu, co-ordinator of the Chinatown Roundtable.

The news came at a meeting with city officials on Wednesday night, said Chiu, adding that moving the shelter won’t solve the root problem.

“We know shutting down a shelter is not going to address these crises,” she said.

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office read: “The shelter must be relocated because of major work planned by the building’s owner. The City of Montreal is working with its partners to identify an alternative site to avoid any disruption of services to vulnerable people in the area.”

Welcome Hall Mission CEO Sam Watts says the shelter in Chinatown had several issues, including the fact that it did not operate 24/7.

The focus should be on finding permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, he said.

“If instead we start with: there are homeless and vulnerable people in the neighbourhood, how do we resolve the challenges that they have? How do we address their needs? When we go there, there’s a good chance that we solve both the needs of the people and the issues in the neighbourhood,” he said.

The Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) is considering legal action.

“We’re looking at a range of options. Right now, what we know is tenants have lost the right to the peaceful enjoyment of the premise,” said CRARR CEO Fo Niemi.

“Certainly, somebody has to be held liable. These tenants just see their lives turned upside down. Condo owners feel their property values may go down,” he continued.

Niemi says another press conference to discuss the problem will be held next week. Top Stories

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