A rally was held Friday afternoon to try to save a residence for people with special needs in St. Jerome.

The Pavilion St. Marie cares for people with severe mental disabilities and last week the families were told the residence is closing next month.

The parents are furious, especially about the lack of notice that they received about the closure.

“The timing is ridiculous. They can’t throw those people out, it’s like they’re putting these people on the street … it’s inhuman,” said parent Denise Hudon, whose daughter has been at the centre for 30 years. “The small dignity that those people have, they're taking it away by throwing these people out.”

The parents are being told to find new places for their children to live within five weeks. The centre is slated to close in April.

The residents range in age from 12 to 68 years old. Some have lived there their entire lives and have serious problems including self-mutilation and biting. Parents say the centre really helps them, the staff understands them, and they are happy.

“It's awful she says, we've had great results here, and we're worried for the patients,” said Sylvie Chartrand, who has been an employee for 36 years.

But the government doesn't want to spend the $38 million it would take to do urgent repairs on the buildings. It says these people can go to other long-term facilities, even though some of those facilities are in places such as Mont Laurier, about 90 minutes away.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said patients will be better off in more modern facilities.

“The level of care will be exactly the same. For instance, for those who are having greater cognitive problems, they need specific care that today as we speak is not provided in that kind of facility,” he said.

The 50 people who work there would lose their jobs.

“If you look at it just on the financial side, of course, you can say we have to reduce the cost. The problem is these are people, these are human beings, and they are a special kind of people in our society,” said union spokesperson Daniele Legault.

The MNA for the area, Pierre Karl Peladeau, showed up at the rally and he says he's going see what he can do to save the residence.