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Renovations means dozens of Montreal community groups need to move or close

Food items at a charity in Montreal. (Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press) Food items at a charity in Montreal. (Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)
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More than a dozen community groups have been told they have to leave their building in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood.

The William Hingston Centre is set to undergo renovations, and one food program is being forced to close when people in the area need it the most.

The Parc-Extension Youth Organization will end its food service program next week after 22 years of operation.

"We're heartbroken," said executive director Jo-An Audrey Jette.

The community kitchen serves around 150 people every lunch hour from Monday to Friday.

Anyone can come to eat a warm, low-priced meal for $4 to $6.

Clients are devastated that it's closing.

"For me, it's very bad because I'm on pension," said 74-year-old Ernesto Sijuenza.

Sijuenza also comes to the cafeteria to socialize and is a client of the organization's meals on wheels program.

It serves 50 to 70 seniors every day.

That program is also ending.

"We're the ones that catch the people that fall through the cracks and those services are jeopardized right now," said Jette.

The Centre de Services Scolaire de Montreal owns the William Hingston Centre where the organization is located.

In an email, a spokesperson told CTV News that major renovation work needs to be done on the building.

There are many services offered in the building and they are being forced to move to different locations.

"Parc-Extension is going to be poorer for losing this centre," said Jette.

The City of Montreal told CTV News that the proportion of citizens suffering from food insecurity is on the rise and that the city has helped relocate 15 organizations with administrative offices in the building.

Jette said, however, that the city will not help the youth organization find a new kitchen.

"The spaces that we're being offered is the best that this city can do," said Jette. "They're not adequate."

Ensemble Montréal city councillor Mary Deros says Mayor Valérie Plante's Projet Montréal administration needs to do more.

"Right now we are in great need of our own building, our own local community centre," she said.

The community kitchen's last day is March 28. Jette hopes the closure is temporary and that they'll be able to reopen in the near future. 

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