[Hpn] Montreal, Canada - Many complain about temporary shelter provided under city plan - The Montreal Gazette - July 04, 2002

H. C. Covington H. C. Covington" <icanamerica@bellsouth.net
Sat, 06 Jul 2002 02:08:19 -0500

Back to school for the homeless
Many complain about temporary shelter provided under city plan

GAVIN TAYLOR, ANGUS LOTEN - The Montreal Gazette -  July 04, 2002

"Daddy, are we in prison?"

The question came from Jacques Demers's 7-year-old son as he looked at the rows
of cots lining the gymnasium at École Polyvalente St. Henri.

The Demers family is among dozens of homeless families in Montreal who will move
to the high school over the next several days, under a plan introduced by the
city yesterday.

Councillor Michel Prescott, who oversees housing in the city, said it would be
easier to provide social and medical services to families if they are housed in
a central location.

Since Monday, the city has provided temporary shelters for homeless families in
hotels, dormitories and a crisis centre.

Prescott said almost all these families will be moved to the high school within
the next several days.

At the same time, the city scaled back its response to the housing shortage,
closing its crisis centre and reducing the hours of its phone hotline.

Although Prescott described the new shelter in glowing terms, many of the high
school's new residents were unhappy with their surroundings.

The Demers family moved there yesterday afternoon, after spending two nights at
the Hôtel Auberge Universel on Sherbrooke St. E.

They were sent to a large gymnasium without air-conditioning, where they found
dozens of cots arranged tightly against each other with no pillows or blankets.
The showers in the bathroom do not have curtains.

"They lied to us," Demers said. "They gave us false information."

"I'm from Africa, but this is too hot for me," added his wife, who asked not to
be named. "It's like hell."

Prescott said the residents will be moved to eight classrooms with
air-conditioning, although last night it seemed that only families - not single
people - would get air-conditioned rooms.

Sylvie Paquette, who also moved to the high school yesterday, said they were
promised curtains between families but were disappointed to find an open
gymnasium with no privacy.

She also complained that residents can only use pay phones: "How are you
supposed to find housing if you can't receive phone calls?"

"You don't have any intimacy, you don't have anything," said her husband, Daniel
Laroche, sitting next to their two children. "It's demoralizing."

Prescott said the high school would be a temporary shelter, but did not know how
long it would stay open. Nor did he guarantee that the homeless will be housed
by the end of summer.

Earlier in the day, 15 to 20 social-housing activists took over a vacant
building at 2109 Nicolet St. in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to call attention to the
plight of homeless families.

Montreal police arrived at about 2:30 p.m. and received consent from the
building's owner to have the group removed a few hours later.

The group says the building owner plans to build high-end condos there.

- Gavin Taylor's E-mail address is gtaylor@thegazette.southam.ca.
© Copyright  2002 Montreal Gazette
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H. C. [Sonny] Covington
Nonprofit Information Specialist
Homeless and Housing News