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Old Brewery Mission to open apartment units for older Montrealers who are homeless

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The Old Brewery Mission is building new apartment units for a growing section of the homeless population: older Montrealers.

A 27-unit permanent housing project is underway in the St-Michel neighbourhood, designed for people 50 and older.

It's a population Old Brewery Mission CEO James Hughes says is especially vulnerable, and makes up about 50 per cent of the homeless population.

"We know that people who are older are more often victimized by their landlord. We see more evictions of seniors," Hughes said, adding that homelessness comes with a heavy physical toll. "It ages you more quickly. The stats show that the average age of people who are homeless is, on average, 10 years less than the average population."

A second building nearby will have 16 studio apartments for young people. The idea is to not just have shelters and housing downtown, but apartments spread out across the island," said Mayor Valerie Plante.

"There is need everywhere. There are vulnerable people across the city, across the island. And often if you talk to people that have more financial precarity, they'll say, 'I want to stay in my neighbourhood,'" she said.

The first permits for the St-Michel project were approved in April 2022. Less than two years later, it's nearing completion.

"Not only do I prefer that because it's smaller, but ultimately I love it because it's not about emergency anymore. It's about saying, 'Here's a long-term sustainable solution for you,'" said Plante.

Those who live at this supervised site will be chosen by the Old Brewery Mission.

Quebec is helping fund the project with a $2.1 million contribution, as well as subsidizing the rent for the 27 tenants.

It comes at a time when Finance Minister Eric Girard is warning this year's budget will likely run a bigger deficit.

"I don't want to scoop the budget. You know, I'm very well aware that Mr. Girard is very sensitive to social services," said Lionel Carmant, minister for health and social services.

Hughes said housing needs to be a priority in the Quebec budget, set to be released next week.

"Housing has to be a one, two or three issue for him. This is not just a Montreal issue. This is a Quebec issue," he said.

With a growing need, there are already applications coming in for the building. Tenants are expected to move in this October. 

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