At an overflowing shelter in Longueuil, Que., work is underway to replace it with social housing

Nestled against the fence of a tennis court and steps from an elementary school sits an encampment with some 30 tents filled with people without a home. Not long ago, François Moissan was one of them.

“I was in the same situation. I got out of it, but now I kind of [give] back. I bring food to the people who need it, and it’s not going better.” The tents sprung up outside a former church in Longueuil, Que., on Montreal’s South Shore over the past few years in response to overcrowding at the emergency homeless shelter inside and the “strict” rules in place to access its resources, said Moissan.

The member of Résiste à la rue, an organization that helps those experiencing homelessness, said many people are barred from entering the shelter due to various infractions. “So who are you helping?” he said. “You can’t go eat, you don’t have access to a bed, there’s no other resources in Longueuil. There’s a waiting list everywhere.” The Halte du coin shelter can accommodate 35 people, falling significantly short of meeting demand in the area. On Monday, Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier announced a plan to relocate the homeless shelter and build social housing in its place.

“We are all very concerned by the situation. We have a major rise of homelessness on our territory … especially since the pandemic,” said Fournier. “This is the major answer to homelessness: to build social housing in order to give people a safe place to live.” The project will include 84 social housing units for people at risk of or trying to escape homelessness by 2025. It will be built on Coteau-Rouge Road at the corner of Bourassa Street, and construction will begin at the end of July. 

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