Downtown bench criticized for sending negative message to Montreal's homeless
MONTREAL -- A downtown park bench is garnering criticism from Montreal's homeless advocates, who say the design sends a firm message to the city's most vulnerable people: “This is not for you.”
Those are the words of Welcome Hall Mission CEO Sam Watts, who said the bench, which is designed to prevent people from lying down on it, helps rob the homeless of their dignity.
“I think the message it sends it out is a message of 'we don't want you here,' which I think is the wrong message,” he said. “I think it's just a little bit disappointing when you see money is being invested to create something that looks like it's creating a barrier for people. I recognize the motives may be pure but the net effect is we start treating others with an us vs. them mentality.”
Similar benches were removed from Cabot Square, an area popular with Montreal's homeless, during the summer. Mayor Valerie Plante blamed the benches on the previous administration and had them removed.
The new bench in question is located on Ste. Catherine St. near The Bay. A city spokesperson said it was designed with seniors and people with reduced mobility in mind and that the armrests are meant to help them stand up and sit down.
But Watts said he found the bench's installation “surprising,” saying he believed the city's administration had dedicated itself to “inclusion.”
“I would like to see the city invest its energy into developing solutions for housing for people who need it rather than preventing them from lounging on a park bench.”