A coalition of Saint-Henri residents, parents and merchants is still angry over a decision to build a four-storey housing complex and supervised drug site for the homeless near a school.
“It’s more like 10 metres or less from the school’s playground,” said coalition member and business owner, James Graham.
The group fears kids will be at risk, despite assurances from city authorities that steps will be taken to minimize any danger.
“Criminality and actions that are less than desirable, we’ll say, happen within 100 metres from these types of centres,” Graham claimed.
This is one in a number of cases recently in which people have opposed services in their neighbourhoods for the unhoused. Last week, some people in Verdun spoke out against plans to open a temporary shelter at a former seniors’ residence, to serve clients of a shelter in Chinatown that is set to close at the end of October.
For months, people living and working in that neighbourhood have complained about the Guy-Favreau shelter, citing violence and drug use among clients.
Experts say as the homelessness and opioid problems worsen more services will be needed to help the vulnerable, so a solution needs to be found, and fast.
“Places like Saint-Henri, places like Verdun, places like here downtown, we’re going to have to find a way to live and cohabitate comfortably because this is not going to go away,” James Hughes, head of the Old Brewery Mission, argued.
He stresses that finding affordable buildings to house these facilities is an enormous challenge, so organizations serving vulnerable populations have very limited choices.
Still, Hughes argues, communication with the public is vital before any project gets started.
“Absolutely (you) have to do the work with our government partners and the funders to work with local leaders,” he pointed out.
Neither the Saint-Henri coalition, Verdun residents nor people living and working in Chinatown say they were adequately consulted about projects. In Saint-Henri, people opposed to the project have asked social services minister Lionel Carmant to intervene.
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“For the establishment to be relocated in an area or a location that is more adequate,” explained Estelle Savoie-Dufresen, the group’s legal adviser. They have not ruled out legal action.
In Verdun, a community meeting is planned to address the concerns of residents there.
Sam Watts, who heads the Welcome Hall Mission, agrees that though tolerance is important, the bigger problem is getting governments to act faster.
“We need to get busy helping people find housing,” he told Global News. “We have to focus on resolving the needs of people who have a human right to some form of adequate housing.”
Montreal’s St-Henri residents still opposed to supervised injection site and shelter
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