Montreal homeless shelters struggle to find enough room at night with curfew in effect

Montreal's homeless shelters are struggling to house everyone who needs it at night, with Quebec's 8 p.m. curfew in full swing.

“Let's call it 100 per cent,” said Welcome Hall Mission CEO Sam Watts on how full his facility is. “That's something we kind of anticipated, but one of the concerns that we have is where does this go to and will we need to expand.”

Each night, the Welcome Hall Mission is taking in 500 men and woman. But with many shelters having outbreaks of COVID-19, many homeless people don't want to stay the night.

“A lot of people don't want to go to the shelter because they don't want to catch COVID,” said Native Women's Shelter co-ordinator Jessica Quijano. “It's really, really worrisome.”

While Montreal has taken steps to open more shelter space for those with COVID, such as converting the old Royal Victoria Hospital site into a temporary red zone, Quijano said it was too late. Many who tested positive had nowhere to go.

“It's something like between 60 and 80 per cent positive cases. There's been a lot of workers that have tested positive, so that's very worrisome,” she said. “There's some people I work with that are hospitalized. There are people that are probably going to die.”

Watts said shelters were already stretched thin before the curfew.

“We don't want to turn anybody away. At the same time, we are a little concerned about the overall capacity situation in Montreal for people in need.”

Police have been instructed not to ticket homeless people but Quijano said some Indigenous women still were.

“There's more racial profiling, not only in ticketing, (but in) harassment, police violence,” she said. “That's something that the Indigenous homeless population goes through every day. This is just one more reason for the police to exert their powers.”

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