MONTREAL -- Quebec is investing $280 million over the next five years to improve services for the province's homeless population.

Calling it an "ambitious" action plan for Quebec, Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant and Minister Responsible for Montreal Chantal Rouleau announced the new funding at a news conference in Montreal Monday morning. 

The largest chunk of money ($77 million) that is being invested is going toward supporting people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.

Approximately $14 million is also being applied to projects aimed at reducing homelessness for Indigenous people. 

Three main themes are at the heart of the initiative: prevention, intervention and collaboration with community organizations. Carmant said the plan is ready to be rolled out right away across the province with several partners. 

Here is a breakdown of where the rest of the money is going:

  • $34 million for the Youth Qualification Program
  • $53 million for emergency shelters, with $10 million set aside for services specific to women
  • $40 million to address addition services for people who experience homelessness
  • $11 million in support to improve the "economic and socio-professional situation" of the most affected population
  • $17 million for intervention practices and campaigns to raise awareness about homelessness

Carmant said the plan is in response to an increase of people experiencing homelessness in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Some people can go very quickly [into homelessness], especially in the past two years, because of the people who lost their house because of COVID and lost their jobs, but some people are into a chronic situation of mental health issues and they need long-term accompaniment, bringing them into a house," Carmant said.

"Sometimes, it will not last forever, so we need to work again with them, and this is what the organizations do very well, and we help them do that on the long term," he added.

"This is why we believe that this plan is a very significant change from previous plans."

Rouleau said the plan is "extremely important" not just for Quebec but for Montreal.

"Homelessness doesn't just affect specific people; it's the whole of our Quebec society that it affects," she said. 

During a Q & A with the media, Carmant mentioned one of the community organizations that would receive funding under the new plan, Projets Autochtones du Quebec, which offers services to Indigenous people experiencing housing insecurity in the Montreal area using a culturally sensitive approach.

In Montreal, there are an estimated 4,000 people who are homeless on a given night -- about twice as many as before the pandemic, according to some estimates.

It's why the top mayoral candidates have made eliminating homelesness and making housing more affordable one of their key priorities. 

Ensemble Montreal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre promises 50,000 new units over four years, with 15 per cent of new construction with over 25 units reserved for social and community housing. 

Mayoral candidate Valerie Plante has promised 60,000 affordable units over 10 years and to double the budget for homeless services to $6 million annually, while her other opponent, Balarama Holness, has argued that the city should get broader powers so it can build social housing without having to wait for the province to act. 

ADVOCATES APPLAUD GOVERNMENT'S ACTION PLAN

Those who are on the front lines of care say the five-year action plan to fight homelessness goes further "than a roof over your head."

"The idea is to connect people back into the network of health care services. When you think of homlessness it's really an urban health-care issue. If people need shelter and need food, they won't be healthy," said Sam Watt, CEO of the Welcome Home Mission.

"People experiencing homelessness are often disconnected from these services."

The president and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, James Hughes, told CTV News the plan will people who are in extreme poverty into housing on a sustainable basis. 

Le Chainon's Sonya Cote was also pleased to learn there was money earmarked for women's shelters. 

"It's a strong plan, one we've been waiting for for many many years," said Cote. 

"It includes prevention, its good news and all questions of inclusion is discussed in that plan, with money. Thats a very good news for women."