Fwd: Montreal: AIDS shelter closure

Manfred Theis (manfredtheis@hotmail.com)
Sat, 14 Nov 1998 13:27:33 PST


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DATE: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 11:34:40
From: American Homeless Society <usahomeless@hotmail.com>
To: AHS-L@AMERICAN.EDU

Saturday 14 November 1998

Tenters protest shutdown

AIDS shelter says it will be forced to close
unless funding increased

EILEEN TRAVERS
The Gazette

Protesters use a loudspeaker to make their point
outside St. Denis St. office of regional health
board.

A dozen campers shivered as they sipped cups of
chicken soup outside a tent on the lawn of the
Montreal regional health board on St. Denis St.
yesterday.

Chez Ma Cousine Evelyn, the only AIDS shelter for
homeless drug addicts, organized the protest to
announce that it will shut down next month if the
board fails to provide the funds needed to stay
open.

"We'll stay here until we prove our point," said
Luc Vincelette, a counselor at Evelyn's.
Yesterday, drug addicts, counselors and AIDS
hospice workers marked Day 4 of their campout,
protesting that the health board is stalling the
announcement of its new budget.

Eight other community groups joined the campers
and voiced concerns about their own financial
future. The current budget of $1.2 million for
AIDS programs has been frozen for three years,
while the prevalence of AIDS has risen sharply
among drug users.

Evelyn's director Lise Ladouceur said the home,
which houses nine residents, cannot operate
without a $200,000 increase in its $450,000 annual
budget.

Inside the health board's offices, program
director Rejean Pinard said the board is trying to
streamline AIDS programs instead of generating new
funds.

"Montreal has eight AIDS homes, and maybe we need
three or four," he said. "If houses are closed,
money can be transferred to the others."

But Ladouceur slammed the board's tactics. "It's
backstabbing," she said. "We don't want to close
one house to keep another open. The need is
growing."

On Tuesday at 11 a.m., the first tent pegs were
jammed into the ground at the health board. At
12:30 p.m., Pinard picked up the phone to call
Evelyn's, offering a $100,000 temporary grant to
pay bills until April.

The home declined the board's offer. Instead, its
33 employees organized four-hour-long shifts to
man the tent around the clock.

"The problems we're facing have become too heavy,"
said Pierre Matteau, a counselor at Evelyn's.

HIV or AIDS prevalence among
intravenous-drug-users rose from 0.3 per cent in
1987 to 6.3 per cent in 1993, health-board figures
show. Last year, between 20 and 25 per cent of
drug-injectors had HIV or AIDS, according to a St.
Luc Hospital study.

Sharing needles is part of the reason for the
numbers. Last year, the Cactus needle exchange
distributed 400,000 syringes, mirroring a growing
number of new users, said director Marianne
Tonnelier.

A budget of $182,000 pays salaries for seven
Cactus employees. Tonnelier has requested a new
budget of $250,000 to hire more workers to deal
with the increase of clients. She has been waiting
for the health board decision since September.

"If Evelyn's closes, we won't have a place to send
our clients," she said. "Yesterday, kids who were
15 or 16 years old came to Cactus to exchange
their first syringes. We need more funds to deal
with this new clientele and prevent more youths
from shooting drugs."

After a few hours outside the health board, the
supporters left for warmer places. But a
contingent of Evelyn staff members remained.

Raymond Page, 46, handed out pamphlets to
pedestrians yesterday before returning to
Evelyn's. He is one of nine formerly homeless
people who live at the three-storey graystone on
Ste. Famille St.

Page had lived on the streets since 1974 until he
got his room seven months ago. He can visit a
psychologist, get help finding an apartment or get
drug treatment. At the home's nursing station, he
takes pills to treat his HIV infection.

"I don't have AIDS yet," he said, "but I want to
try to die with a roof over my head and three
meals a day. If this place closes, I have three
choices: the hospital, prison or the street."
Roger LeClerc, president of the Quebec coalition
of community groups fighting AIDS, represents 17
homes for patients.

"Evelyn's is a jewel," he said. "We need more of
them, not less."

=A91998 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.


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