Photo Cred - Pier Luc
Homelessness in Montreal is an increasingly prevalent problem. Only on the rarest of occasions can you walk around the city and not come across someone who’s living on the street. While exact stats are pretty hard to come by, it’s estimated that anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 people in the city have no permanent address.
In December of last year, the government of Quebec announced that it will raise funding to fight homelessness by $4.6 million. Instead of focusing on temporary fixes, the government needs to redirect this money into projects that will produce long term solutions, and luckily for them, we've found 7 strategies that have worked in other major cities around the world.
1. Start A Tiny Village
In Portland, Oregon a 14-year-old tent city called Dignity Village has turned into semipermanent experimental housing for the homeless. The “village” is made up of 43 10-by-12-foot mini, wooden homes heated by propane tanks, with shared baths, kitchen and lounging areas. It allows people to have a home base so that they can go out and find work, and it only costs the residents $25 a month (less than a dollar a day) for operating expenses. The village’s concept has been replicated in a few cities across the USA with similar success, and could easily be used in Montreal as a potential solution to homelessness.
2. Leave Your Garbage On The Street
The Homeless Homes Project, started by Gregory Kloehn, is an initiative that takes illegal street dumpings, commercial waste, and excess household items and turns them into mobile shelters for homeless people. By making everything from repurposed materials they’re hoping to create viable living spaces at very little cost.
3. Postpone Mental Illness Treatment
Traditionally, before any homeless person can be given permanent housing, they first have to receive treatment for any mental illness or drug addiction that they have. Housing First, however, is a new approach that was started in NYC that says we should be giving homeless people access to permanent housing before starting any treatment. It was tested out in 5 Canadian cities over the last 4 years under the name At Home/Chez Soi, and the results were amazing. After 6 months, 62% of the participants remained in a permanent residence, double the usual 31%. What’s even better is that the government actually ended up saving money due to less time being spent in hospitals, prisons and shelters.
4. Give Out More Money
In Quebec, the basic welfare rate for an adult with the ability to work is $604 per month. In Montreal this might cover the cost of rent, but then leaves nothing for food, transportation, clothing or any of the materials you might need to acquire a job, like a phone or internet connection. Quebec is going to need to up their welfare game if they’re expecting it to actually help someone.
Photo Cred - Indy Bay
5. By-Pass The System
One of the biggest problems facing homeless individuals is the system that’s trying to help them. Navigating it can be extremely slow and complicated, so setting up a direct line of communication between the homeless community and homeless based services has been proven to work. In 2004 a group of San Francisco homeless advocates started Project Homeless Connect by renting out a convention hall and hosting nearly every social service provider in the city. They each set up a table and provided information about the short and long-term housing program available in the city. They also provided clothing, free phone calls, counselling and medical treatment, and they even had valet parking for shopping carts. The convention was so successful that they now host it six times a year.
6. Do It For The Kids
According to a 2013 survey, youth make up about 20% of the homeless community in Canada. The problem with youth homelessness is that it’s an extremely complex issue that usually comes as the result of familial problems, so coming up with any one solution is beyond difficult. With that being said, the Quebec government investing more money into mental health attention in schools and child protection services for at-risk youths would go a long way in helping and preventing youth homelessness.
7. Stop Giving Them Your Blankets
According to Aubin Boudreau, who works for the Accueil Bonneau Mission in Montreal, you should stop handing out blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless people of Montreal. Instead, you should encourage them to visit a shelter where they'll be out of the cold and can receive help from the services that are available to them.