Calls for permanent shelter as Cabot Square warming tent is taken down

The warming tent in Cabot Square, used as shelter by Montreal's homeless population, is coming down -- and advocates want a permanent structure to take its place.

Around 400 people have shown up every night for food and shelter since the tent was established.

Tamara Sparks is one of those people.

"I used to get to know the staff, they'd offer you a hot chocolate while you're waiting for the food," she said.

"It was providing a good service for a lot of people."

The tent went up in memory of Raphael Andre, an Innu man who died trying to stay warm in a portable toilet in January 2021.

But time and money have run out, and the city is not granting outreach groups an extension to keep the tent open.

The mayor's office says the tent was only supposed to be temporary and that it's looking at more permanent solutions to address homelessness.

But some outreach workers say the city is dragging its feet.

"The problem doesn't just go away. People came from wherever to get food, to get advice, to get support that is now gone. Even though it's warm enough [now], that doesn't matter," said Nakuset, director of Montreal's Native Women's Shelter.

Jamie Kirby, who is from Kahnawake, used to work in the warming tent. He said he's heartbroken to see it taken down.

"It's already a void in my life, and it's only been a day," he said.

He wants something concrete to replace the temporary shelter.

"We want a physical building. That's what we need, but I don't know if it will ever happen."

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