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Welcome Hall Mission hopes to build transitional housing centre for Montreal's homeless

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It's mostly an empty space at the moment, as engineers and Welcome Hall Mission board members tour the building, but in the future, the hope is that it will be a functioning transitional housing space where someone can sleep and get a meal.

Welcome Hall Mission CEO Sam Watts stresses, however, that it will not be a shelter.

"We inherited a 100-year-old system whereby the shelter was considered a destination for people and people would come and go from that location," he said.

The new space, he said, will focus on getting people back into permanent housing quickly.

"The issue isn't how quickly can I shelter you? The issue is how quickly can I help you find a permanent place to call home?" said Watts.

The Welcome Hall plans to buy a building on Ontario Street East near Parthenais to set up units for around 50 men and women.

The building will have common areas and dedicated staff to help find permanent housing and other services.

"We have a variety of connected services," said Watts. "Our dental clinic, for example, a mental health services, employment services... Ultimately, this is really aobut helping people get back into permanent housing."

Homelessness in Montreal has been on the rise, and safety in the metro system has become a growing concern.

Watts believes that the solution is in addressing the root causes of homelessness and that the Welcome Halls's rapid housing program is seeing success.

It has housed close to 400 people in the past two years.

"If we scale it up, I think we'll see a decline in visible homelessness, and we'll see an increase in people who are treated with dignity and who are actually productive citizens of our city," he said.

Watts said the provincial government has committed to funding daily operations but purchasing and renovating the space on Ontario Street comes with a $5 million price tag.

"We're going to be looking for lots of help from Montrealers who historically have always stepped up to help us," he said. 

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