West Island's first homeless shelter to open in December

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By Christine Long and Adam Kovac, CTV Montreal

The coming of December will bring with it the opening of the West Island's first homeless shelter.

The drop-in centre will be oriented towards at-risk youth in the area.

Caroline Turpin-Emond of Action Jeunesse de L'Ouest de L'Ile many young people are forced to jump between homes, stay in backyard sheds or set up a tent for shelter.

“There's couch surfing. People think it doesn't exist, but it's there,” she said.

Though the West Island is home 250,000 people, few services exist for the homeless in the area. As a result, many at-risk youth head downtown.

“We really have to put a focus on emergency housing to keep our young adults from living the downtown reality, because it's scary. It's a whole network, it's a street culture,” said city councillor Benoit Langevin.

Since 2008, Langevin has been pushing for such a facility in the West Island, saying a drop-in centre will offer warmth, food and support. Turpin-Emond said it's long overdue.

“There's no emergency housing and no access to social housing for people who find themselves in a homeless situation,” she said.

She said her organization is already working with others in the area to get outreach workers onto the streets.

“I think we're really capable of reaching people who need us,” she said.

While the opening date of Dec. 1 is approaching, a site has yet to be picked. Langevin said a short-list of possible locations has been drawn up.

“If you have a problem, do it in my back yard and we'll deal with it,” he said.

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