Plateau residents concerned about safety near shelter at Hotel-Dieu

Some residents of Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal borough have become frustrated with safety concerns around a homeless shelter at the site of the former Hotel-Dieu hospital.

At a special town hall meeting Tuesday evening, residents addressed the issue, with some saying their community feels less safe.

The shelter at the Hotel-Dieu site, at the corner of Saint-Urbain St. and Pins Ave., has been in place for a year. Some residents of the area say not enough has been done to properly integrate the homeless population into the surrounding community.

There are complaints about drug use and drug dealing, particularly at nearby children’s park, Parc Devonshire. Residents say there have also been fights, cases of public urination, and syringes found at the park.

City councillor for the area Alex Norris said the province, not the city, decided on the site of the former hospital for the shelter, but also said the city has a role to play to ensure safety of the area.

"We're aware that there is an urgent need for shelter space for homeless individuals and every neighbourhood has to do its part. And so we believe that our neighbourhood has to do its part, but we need to ensure that this facility is integrated in a harmonious way," he said.

Sam Watts of the Welcome Hall Mission said this shelter in particular focuses on reintegration has been a success story in reducing the need for emergency services.

"I understand why people would be upset about something that's happening in their neighbourhood. It's not pleasant to see vulnerable people in a park that your kids are going to. That's not something that everybody gets real happy about," he said. "And yet, the answer is not to point fingers or to yell – and certainly it's not to close down facilities that are actually helping prevent that from being worse."

Norris said police were present at town hall meeting Tuesday and it’s up to them to ensure the park is safe for children to play in.

He's also said city will begin sending clean-up crews twice a day to the area to ensure the neighbourhood remains clean.