The shelter, called Resilience Montreal, is a culmination of efforts from the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, the Nazareth Community, and Architecture Without Borders Quebec. It will be located on the corner of Atwater and Ste-Catherine, in a three-storey building that was previously a sushi restaurant. The shelter secured a one-year lease of the property, but its directors are already looking elsewhere for a permanent location.
Fourteen people have died in the area this past year, as a result of violence against homeless people, as well as the lack of services following the forced relocation of the Open Door Shelter to Parc Avenue to make space for a new housing development. While the presence of Open Door in the Milton-Parc community has been a crucial resource for the homeless population there, the move left a huge gap in services in Atwater.
Gentrification in the neighbourhood is a contributing factor to the housing crisis in the area. Across the street from Cabot Square, luxury condominiums and chain stores are being built, increasing the cost of living in the area and displacing many former residents in an area that once housed a largely Indigenous and low-income population.
“There’s always concern because there’s so many beautiful condos going up, but where’s the social housing?” asked Sheila Woodhouse, executive director of the nonprofit Nazareth Community, in an interview with CBC.
“There are people sleeping outside. There’s people unwell. There’s been an increase of aggression,” Woodhouse continued. “It’s not a healthy environment. It’s a health crisis, actually.”
A high percentage of homelessness in the area is experienced by Indigenous women and trans and two-spirit people, who are statistically more likely to experience violence. Intervention workers in the area say that some of the homeless population in Cabot Square moved from Inuit communities in Quebec to Montreal – often for medical care – but without a support system in the city, many have been abused.
One of the NWSM’s programs, the Iskweu Project, aims to reduce the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and trans and two-spirit people in Quebec, acknowledging the role that colonial violence plays in causing homelessness. “The context of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (trans, two-spirit), interlocks with the trauma lived by Indigenous peoples and the various attempts, by the government to assimilate them,” the website states.
“The staff that are going to be hired are going to have background in sexual assault and addiction. We’ll have a psychologist that is going to be there, and we’re also going to make sure that we’re going to have a lot of community organizations coming through our doors,” Nakuset said to CBC.
The shelter will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 365 days a year, providing a place to sleep, a place to shower, and three meals a day to anyone who is in need. Other programs offered will include substance abuse counselling, yoga, reiki, manicures, and haircuts.
Visit http://www.nwsm.info/resilience-montreal for more information, including how to support the shelter. They are currently in need of skilled and unskilled volunteer labour.