Montreal homeless advocates hope to have warming tent up in Cabot Square by Friday
MONTREAL -- Organizers said that plans to open a warming tent in Cabot Square will still go forward after a judge ruled that Quebec's curfew will be suspended for the homeless.
The tent idea was brought forward by non-profit day centre Resilience Montreal, which is run by the Native Women's Shelter.
Nakuset, the shelter's executive director, said that though the homeless may not be getting tickets for violating curfew moving forward, there is still an urgent need to give them a warm place to go at night.
"The Cabot Square area is very particular in terms of, the population that stays there doesn't want to travel. They want to stay in that area and there's nothing in that area," she said.
Earlier in the day, before the ruling was released, Nakuset said that the curfew is "so punitive" to the homeless in the Cabot Square area.
“If you're in the metro for too long, they ask you to leave and if you sit down, they give you a ticket,” she said.
“There's nowhere to go in this area, especially on the weekends, to keep warm. Even at Resilience, because of the COVID outbreak, our services are limited. They can come in and get something to eat but they have to leave. So the idea of a warming tent is really important because the people in this area are cold all the time."
Though no public money has yet been allocated, the family that owns Kahnawake's Host Hotel has pledged $25,000.
“We're bringing in generators and gas and donations for the tent,” said Mary Goodleaf. “Hopefully, it gives people a warm place to rest their head for the next few weeks and maybe by luck, somebody else will want to contribute also.”
Another member of the family said it's worth doing "if it saves one person's life or helps out someone in a small or huge way."
The current situation is "kind of humbling," said Barton Goodleaf. "It hits home when you see what's happening here. We're grateful we're able to help out."
Nakuset praised the Kahnawake community, saying there had been an outpouring of support, including people donating knitted socks
"They are sending us so many resources and money and security," she said.
"All the things we need, they're going crazy trying to help us. The Indigenous community is literally coming down to Montreal and doing everything they can to help the most vulnerable. Curfew or no curfew, the problem still exists."
She also singled out the Innu community in general and activist Michele Audette in particular for their work in making the tent happen. On Jan. 18, Raphael Andre, an Innu homeless man, was found frozen to death in a chemical toilet.
Nakuset said the warming tent would be named in Andre's honour.
Before the court ruling, Premier Francois Legault repeatedly stressed that homeless people will not be exempt from Quebec's curfew, which runs from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day until Feb. 8. Legault said he believes that if there is an exemption, some people may pretend to be homeless in an attempt to get around the curfew.
He has said he expects police to use their discretion in handing out tickets. A recent study found that homeless Montrealers receive 40 per cent of tickets issued by police.
Advocates have taken the provincial government to court in an attempt to get an exemption from the curfew for the homeless. A ruling is expected later this week.
Nakuset said she is hoping the warming tent will be approved by the various levels of government this week, with eyes towards having the tent set up by Friday. Montreal temperatures are forecasted to drop over the weekend.