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Montreal businessman writes scathing letter to government to care for homeless population

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A Montreal real estate owner is calling on all levels of government to address the growing number of homeless people in the city.

Over the past year, Peter Sergakis says not a single week goes by without an incident involving homeless people at one of his commercial or residential properties.

He says there have been break-ins, vandalism, and his tenants have been threatened.

"We cannot continue going on like this," said Sergakis.

The businessman has written an open letter to Premier François Legault, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, and Montreal police chief Fady Dagher.

Sergakis says they are incapable of doing what he considers to be their moral and political duty, to care for the city's homeless population.

"They're suffering right now, because life run them very low and they're suffering and somebody has to help them and the government has to do that," said Sergakis.

In his letter, Sergakis estimates there are 6,000 people sleeping on the streets in Montreal.

Old Brewery Mission president and CEO James Hughes says that guess is not far off from the actual number of people, and it has been increasing since 2018.

"There's more distress than we've ever seen before. I think more opioid use incidents, problems related to mental illness and the lack of access to medical services," said Hughes.

Hughes agrees that all levels of government need to do more. But he's also challenging landlords, including Sergakis, to be part of the solution.

"Make your housing stock available to really poor people as well. Work with places like the Old Brewery and our partners to try to open doorways so these people can get inside in their own housing unit and then there'll be less people on the street," Hughes told CTV News.

In a statement emailed to CTV News, the city says "…Montreal has never deployed so many resources in terms of homelessness, vulnerability and safety. Our EMMIS team is expanding, and the SPVM's mixed teams are playing a key role."

And Quebec's Social Services Ministry writes "...faced with the complex and growing situation of homelessness in Montreal, our government has made significant investments in recent years to support the actions of the healthcare network and partner organizations," adding "...we will continue to be there, with all the partners involved."

Homeless advocates say it will take multiple partners to find solutions. Sergakis says he is willing to collaborate. 

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