Homelessness crisis: ‘Major’ public consultation on issue to start in Montreal

The City of Montreal is launching a “major” public consultation on tackling and finding solutions to homelessness.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, along with local public health and provincial officials, announced the initiative Tuesday.

She said the city has heard from Montrealers and wants to involve both citizens and community organizations in the next steps.“We are seeing that more and more residents, parents, families and business owners are concerned about the way resources are planned in their area and we must do better in anticipation of increasing needs,” Plante said in a statement.

The goal is for future projects to be implemented more “harmoniously” without disrupting the peace and safety of the neighbourhoods they’re installed in, according to the city“We need to work together,” said Serge Lareault, Montreal’s commissioner for homelessness. “We need to keep the solidarity of Montrealers. If you want to have a better a city and if we want to improve things.”

The public consultation comes amid recent criticism from citizens who felt their concerns weren’t being heard about services for vulnerable populations, such as over a newly opened supervised injection site in the St-Henri neighbourhood.“I want to make sure that the citizens in Montreal feel like they have their word to say,” Plante said during a news conference Tuesday.

Montreal, along with Quebec, faces a rising number of people living in emergency shelters or on the streets.Last year, a report found that “visible homelessness” increased by 33 per cent in Montreal between April 2018 and October 2022. The survey counted 10,000 homeless people across the province, including 4,690 in Montreal, on Oct. 11, 2022.

The development was also announced one day after Montreal police were called to investigate the death of a man who was found lifeless in a “makeshift shelter” between buildings.Montreal’s public health director says it’s important to hear from the different groups who are affected. Dr. Mylène Drouin noted that the housing crisis, toxic drugs and mental-health struggles have contributed to a rise in visible homelessness in the city.

Sam Watts, CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission, was one of the directors of multiple homeless shelters on hand for the announcement. Seeing different levels of government come together to address the crisis is a good sign, he said.“I feel like this process will actually be a good process for everybody,” Watts said.The dates have not yet been set for the public consultation, but they will be announced on the city’s website in the coming weeks. Afterwards, a report with findings will be made public.

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