- In a now-viral Facebook post, a Montrealer outlined an incident they witnessed in which STM officers allegedly asked a homeless person to leave Berri-UQAM station despite extreme cold temperatures outside.
- The STM and Québec Solidaire Spokesperson Manon Massé have both responded to the post.
When the windchill can freeze skin in minutes, it's important that Montreal's vulnerable homeless population has a warm place for shelter. Occasionally, homeless people will take refuge in metro stations, which they are allowed to do, according to the STM. On Thursday, December 19, however, an incident in which STM officers allegedly kicked out a homeless person in what felt like -20 C weather renewed debate about the STM's response to those taking shelter in its properties.
An eyewitness recounted the scene in a Facebook post and described two STM officers approaching a person* who was sitting in a corridor at Berri-UQAM.
According to their report, the officers demanded that the person pick up their bags and leave the station, following them to the doors to make sure she complied.
The eyewitness approached one of the officers and asked them if they contacted a resource or winter accommodation service to pick up the person, to which the officers allegedly replied: "keep your questions to yourself."
The incident took place at 4 p.m. when the windchill in Montreal dropped temperatures to a frigid -27.
The STM also developed an action plan in 2017, allowing homeless people to use stations to keep warm during the day.
Replying to the Facebook thread, the STM wrote that "[our employees] are aware and trained to intervene with people in homelessness and our partnership with the roaming services centre aims to allow people to refer to the resources at their disposal through the psychosocial teams present in our stations."
In a statement, the STM also denied that its officers removed the person from the station. A spokesperson tells MTL Blog that "the person was not expelled from the station but only moved."
In 2016, the STM announced that it will operate service points for itinerants in five metro stations downtown.
Officers are instructed to assist these people and, if needed, offer services like access to a social worker and a shuttle service.
The STM says it will conduct an internal investigation into whether the protocol was followed.
Québec Solidaire spokesperson Manon Massé also commented on the situation and said that "this kind of situation is unacceptable."
"The STM must ensure that security officers act with kindness and humanity, which is obviously not the case here."
"I'm trying to join the STM President and Mayor Plante, who I know are sensitive to the reality of vulnerable people."
Montreal has many resources available to the homeless in the winter.
For instance, the Royal Victoria Hospital has become a pet-friendly homeless shelter for the season, with over 100 beds available.
Responding to the STM's plan to help homeless people in 2016, director-general of the Société de développement social Émile Roux said that being "aware of the issues raised by the homeless in the metro, the STM decided, as early as 2012, to be pro-active and find a real solution to meeting the needs of homeless people while ensuring optimum conditions for sharing space with transit users."
In 2017, the STM released this video to introduce its program to assist homeless people.
If you believe the life of a homeless person is in danger due to the cold, call 9-1-1.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
*This article has been updated.