MONTREAL (AFP) – Along the edges of a long boulevard in Montreal stretches an unprecedented sight in this city: hundreds of tents that have appeared since the end of the summer in a brand new homeless camp where many people walk were thrown from their homes by the pandemic.
« Welcome to the trendy Notre-Dame warehouse! » quipped Jacques Brochu, who was called « mayor » by his neighbors.
At 60, Brochu said he was homeless and lived in a tent on Notre Dame Street after losing affordable housing that had been reclaimed from its owner.
Like his new neighbors, he is preparing for a cold winter in Quebec, during which temperatures often drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius. .
« I do very well at heating my tent, » said Brochu, showing off his little candles. A tarpaulin covering the shelter does the rest.
In the camp in Hochelaga, once a working-class neighborhood in east Montreal that is undergoing gentrification, the longtime homeless meet people who have recently lost their jobs as well as students and workers who have lost their homes.
Guylain Levasseur, 55, who has been homeless for six years and lives in a small trailer, is considered the « manager » of the camp. .
Under a canopy of his caravan, which is lined with armchairs, he has set up a kind of kitchen in which people can come and take food or donate it.
« There are people who come every day to bring us meals, » he said. His van is overflowing with sleeping bags and warm clothes that were also donated by good Samaritans.
For the past three months, he’s been paying out some of his meager social benefits to buy generators and keep the tents warm.
Another resident managed to set up a wifi network under the account name “Notre-Dame-Lager”, which was forwarded by a router mounted on his caravan.
Serge Lareault, Montreal’s homeless commissioner, said coronavirus « threw hundreds of people onto the streets ». .
There were around 3 in town last year. 000 homeless, but that number has increased since the virus outbreak, devastating the economy and putting pressure on affordable housing.
“Our emergency shelters are overcrowded and demand continues to grow. There are camps almost everywhere in town, ”he said.
In the face of an emergency, authorities in the province of Quebec and the city of Montreal have launched a number of initiatives, including a hotel that will house 380 homeless people every evening from this month through the end of March.
Not everyone on the street, however, is happy about booking Spartan emergency shelters in the middle of a pandemic.
« You never know who your neighbor will be or where he was before, » said Brochu, who spent time in an animal shelter after losing his home.
« I can take care of myself here, » he said, wearing an anorak that was donated by a charity.
Lareault, the homeless commissioner, added that many homeless people may be evicted from the camp as temperatures drop.
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Montreal, homelessness, housing
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