Downtown Montreal has a lot of homeless people. That's just a fact, and we get several more during the summer because there's more money to be made here. I personally do not give money to the homeless or squeegee kids anymore, not because I don't feel bad for them, but because if I gave 50 cents to every homeless person I get solicited by on a daily basis, it would cost me $40 at the end of the week. I used to give money to the homeless, but that's when I'd encounter 1 or 2 a day. But after working on Saint-Laurent and the corner of Prince Arthur, I've noticed the problem getting a lot worse.
Let me take this week alone as an example. As I was smoking a cigarette with a co-worker on the street near one of those machines to pay for parking, I saw a man walk by and reach into the change bin to see if there was any loose change leftover. I didn't think much of it, but then moments later, another man did it. Then another, and another. By the time I finished my cigarette, 5 people checked that bin for loose change ... 5.
But that's only the beginning, during that time my co-worker and I were also asked if we had a spare cigarette and change 4 times. Not even in a polite way, these guys were straight up demanding money like we owed it to them and walking away pissed off when we refused. One guy even asked us if we could follow him to Subway to buy him a sandwich.
That's just when I'm on foot, now let's talk about when I'm driving a car. This morning, on my way to work, my windshield was washed - twice. Once at the corner of Sherbrooke and St-Laurent and again at St-Laurent and Pine. Each time I said "no thank you" but the squeegee kid didn't listen and washed it anyways, with god knows what was in the Gatorade bottle, while 2 more of his buddies were waiting on a bench ready to take over the next shift.
Then I parked and as I walked to the office I was greeted by this lovely sight:
To be clear, I wasn't in some random back alley, I was right on the corner of Saint Laurent and Prince Arthur and these guys have been sleeping here every day this week until about noon while hundred of pedestrians and even children walk by (did I mention there's also a homeless guy currently sleeping on a couch on the balcony behind my office?). Meanwhile the buskers are gone because playing music for money is impossible when there are 6 homeless guys harassing everyone who walks by. By the time they reach the busker they've either given away all their change or they just start ignoring people asking for money.
I'm not blaming the homeless, they do what they can to survive. But I can't just ignore what I see every day. The stores are closing and the homeless are everywhere. I guess what I'm trying to say is, WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING ON SAINT-LAURENT?!
So how can we try to help? Here are a few suggestions submitted by our readers:
- Donate to the staple organizations Old Brewery Mission and Dans La Rue here in Montreal
- Donate/volunteer at the Refuge des Jeunes for the homeless 18-24 year olds
- Donate/volunteer at the Auberge du Coeur for young men between 18-29
- Donate/volunteer at the Maison du Pere provide shelter, meals, and productive activities for homeless men aged 25+
- Feed the homeless at La Maison des Amis at 1pm
- Donate to help drug addicts beat the habit at Cactus Montreal
- Provide clothing, food, advice, and counselling for the homeless at Le Roc
- Support the magazine giving back to the homeless, L’Itinéraire, for $3
More ways to help can be found here at the Quebec Resources section of Homeless Nation.