Plante says tent cities won't be tolerated, while debate over solutions turns political
MONTREAL -- After Monday’s dismantling of Montreal's second tent city organized within a year, Mayor Valerie Plante was clear her administration will not allow such encampments.
“The plan is that we want to bring people under a roof,” Plante said at a news conference Thursday. “That’s always been our intention.”
Montreal has surpassed its goal of creating 950 housing units for the homeless, the mayor said -- to be exact, her administration has developed 1,089 units.
“This is where the help can start, the real work.. to have a long-term roof,” Plante said.
But opposition party Ensemble Montreal said the city's steps so far might not be enough to stop more tent cities from springing up. They said Plante needs to do more.
“Encampments have been happening for the second year, and dismantlement, and the only thing that we have to offer is policing,” said Benoit Langevin, Pierrefonds-Roxboro city councillor.
“So we have to offer something else.”
Former mayor and now mayoral candidate Denis Coderre has proposed turning hotels into rooming houses. Ensemble Montreal will table a motion on that at the next city council meeting.
WHAT WE NEED IS MULTIPLE PATHWAYS
The CEO of Welcome Hall Mission, Sam Watts, says social housing is one step to get people off the street and find permanent housing, but it’s not the only solution.
“There are so many other parts, and so things like rent supplements, transition resources, things like that, address a different element of need,” Watts said.
“What we need is multiple pathways of exit, not just one thing.”
He says the majority of people on the street do actually want a roof over their heads, but getting to that point can be more complicated than it seems to those who haven't lived that experience.
“The challenge is, when somebody pitches a tent in a location, what we really need to be doing is going and finding out what’s the story,” Watts said.
“What’s the reason for them to be there, why are they there? And what can we do to help them out?”