String of homeless deaths leads to calls for change
Published Saturday, September 21, 2019 6:38PM EDT
After a string of deaths in the area, homeless advocates say the populations in Cabot Square and elsewhere are desperate for resources.
Jean-Marc Bonhomme lost his friend Kevin last week, who was sleeping on the other side of the statue in the middle of the square.
"It's like I lose a son," said Bonhomme. "He used to call me dad. It's like I lose a son because I didn't see him. If I had've seen him, then I could have saved him."
Many say Kevin and other deaths in the area are due to a recent reduction in services to the area.
The situation at the corner of Ste. Catherine St. and Atwater Ave. quickly deteriorated after the Open Door Shelter was forced to move from St. Stephen's Anglican Church.
Open Door is the only shelter that allows intoxicated clients inside, and moved to Parc Ave. to make way for a condo development.
"We knew that there was going to be an issue here because the kind of services that they were able to provide were essential for the population here," said Nakuset, director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.
Food, medical attention, and other support left with the shelter leaving homeless people vulnerable, according to Nakuset
"So you've seen a huge decline in the area," she said.
Local shelter workers are calling the situation a public health crisis.
Women's shelter Chez Doris director Marina Boulos-Winton said the demand for showers, clothing and food has increased by 50 per cent, and that they are dealing with more violence than usual.
"In the month of August, we called 911 10 times, whereas it typically happens two or three times a month," said Boulos-Winton.
Nakuset said the city has finally responded with a solution that will be coming in the next two months.
"It'll be more than just a band-aide," she said. "It'll be the next step on finding autonomy."