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Tensions mount in Chinatown between residents and homeless population

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Tensions between residents and the homeless population in Montreal's Chinatown are growing.

While a community organization distributed food along de la Gauchetiere Street over the weekend, many residents criticized the operation, saying it encouraged people to stay when the city should be finding other solutions.

"I'm scared every day to go out from here," said resident Marie-Josee Leblanc.

Tensions have been exceptionally high since last October when a homeless shelter at Complexe Guy Favreau shut its doors.

Many who used the shelter ended up on the street, and other facilities like the Old Brewery Mission are at capacity.

Since the closure, residents and business owners have reported more crime and drug use in the area. They say despite sharing their concerns with the city, they were ignored.

Erin, a person experiencing homelessness, said it's unfair for the anger to be directed at the homeless population when they have no other options.

"I think it's very rude to come out to where most people live and where most homeless shelters are and talk about how you don't want them to be here. Not giving a solution. Most homeless shelters are full," she said.

Residents in a nearby apartment complex are worried about living with people practically on their doorstep, but those on the streets say they have a right to be here, too.

"I don't like how you guys paint us as bad people because we're just as good as you guys are. Just as competent, just and loving," said Erin.

The residents suggest the city convert empty office buildings into shelters and housing.

"There's lots of empty buildings. Even if it's not up to norms and standards, it's better than tents," said resident Christiane Jansen.

Fo Niemi of the civil rights group the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) said it's alarming that the situation hasn't been solved since last fall.

"There's something wrong with so much money being spent and people still aren't getting services," he said.

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