Montreal's Open Door homeless shelter increases hours to respond to pandemic needs

Starting Dec. 1, the Open Door day shelter in the Plateau is going to be open 24/7.

When the Park Ave. shelter opened 32 years ago, it only had enough resources to welcome clients during the daytime on weekdays.

With homelessness on the rise in the city in the last few years, and shelter space further limited because of the COVID-19 distancing measures, Montreal is investing in additional places to sleep for the city’s homeless.

Many of the Open Door’s clients consider the Plateau their home, so when the shelter’s doors close at the end of the day, they sleep on the street.

"Sometimes I get cold feet in the morning outside,” said Thomas, who goes to the shelter. “I sleep outside that's why I want it open 24/7.”

Others, who have to walk across town to overnight shelters for a warm bed each night, are also happy they will be able to stay in their neighbourhood this winter.

"Of course I think it's a great idea,” said Bill, another client. “For me, it would help.”

Six more staff members will be hired to keep the shelter open overnight.

"The toughest part of our job is to tell them goodbye at the end of the day and to say we have to shut the door and push them out,” said floor manager Marcel Lauzon.

The shelter is receiving some funding from the City of Montreal to allow it to extend its hours.

“What’s great this year I find is that instead on concentrating all the resources at the Old Royal Vic, now there's many places that are going to be able to respond,” said Mélodie Racine, director of the Open Door shelter.

The shelter will be open overnight and on weekends through the end of March.

The hope is that once the winter is over, some of the funding will continue to be able to keep the shelter open during the day, seven days a week.

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