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Longueuil unveils plan to fight homelessness as encampments increase

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With shelters full and encampments cropping up, the City of Longueuil followed Montreal's lead and unveiled its first action plan to fight homelessness.

Homeless encampments across the suburban communities are relatively new to Longueuil's landscape but have become more common recently.

"We always had homelessness, but mostly around the metro. But now it's all around the city," said Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier.

There are at least 15 people living in tents throughout the city, and as many as 1,000 people are homeless.

Fournier says the problem grew during the pandemic, but that wasn't the only factor.

"The housing crisis, the opioid crisis, and the mental health crisis, so it's the perfect storm," she said.

Dolly Shinhat, director general of Our Harbour, runs a housing program for people with mental illness. She, too, says she has noticed the increase.

"All the resources are overwhelmed," said Shinhat. "There's these new encampments because there aren't places for people to go."

Fournier admits that resources are scarce, and with around just 100 beds available, shelters in Longueuil are full.

L'Halte du Coin is a shelter that operates out of a church and has 35 beds. General manager Pierre Rousseau and his team are trying to find and fund a new location. He wishes the city, provincial and federal governments were better coordinated.

"Do they manage this together, or do they agree with their responsibility to each other?" asked Rousseau. "Meantime, I'm just waiting with no money."

L'Halte du Coin shelter in Longueuil wants to expand and add more beds, but struggles to find funds. (Angela McKenzie/CTV News)

Longueuil has earmarked more than $800,000 to fight homelessness. The money is mostly for pilot projects, adding more public toilets, training library employees and planning for a future safe drug use site.

The mayor said Longueuil is doing what it can, but other governments need to chip in.

"I think Quebec and the Canadian government can do better," she said.

Unlike Montreal, Fournier said Longueuil has no plans to dismantle encampments given the lack of shelter space and resources available. 

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