Montreal's former Royal Victoria Hospital, closed since 2015, is providing shelter to the city's most vulnerable during the harsh winter months.
As announced by the regional health board, the historic hospital has been transformed into a temporary shelter to ensure that homeless people will not be forced to sleep in the winter cold. Patient rooms have been converted into an 80-bed homeless shelter that is now open to women and men as well as their pets. The announcement comes at a time when unseasonably cold weather has filled shelters to near capacity.
The Welcome Hall Mission is among those managing that effort alongside, the Old Brewery Mission and others. The program will only run until April 15, but the extra beds come at a crucial time for a city struggling with increasing homelessness.
Montreal's executive committee approved a $50,000 contribution to the project and the province is covering the rest for a total investment of $228,000, according to CBC.
The temporary refuge was launched after city homeless shelters found themselves filled to capacity and struggling to accommodate sleepers amidst decreasing temperatures. As most shelters do not allow pets, officials worked towards a solution where people and their animals would be welcomed. Provincial legislators will be working with city officials to secure more long-term solutions and permanent housing for when the shelter closes in the spring.
“We’ve been able to move forward quickly on creating this emergency unit for homeless people,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, according to CBC. “Of course, this is for this winter, but what is a positive sign is knowing that our administration wants to find a solution on the long-term.”
“No one should be outside right now. Everyone deserves a roof,” she added.
Sam Watts, CEO of the city homeless shelter Welcome Hall Mission, said that they were making good progress toward eradicating homelessness in Montreal, but for now they are in dire need of a temporary facility as they don't want to leave anybody on the streets. He added that shelters are often restrictive to genders, are pet free and have strict rules about intoxication, but this one, set up in the Ross Pavillion, will have a "high level" of acceptance.
Watts urges those who want to make an impact on homelessness to support the organizations that have the resources to help them find permanent housing solutions: "The real help the public can provide is to help fund the organizations that are trying to help people get out of those situations, and that’s what we encourage.”
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