Ville-Marie highway encampment remains for now, but defenders want long-term solution

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The dismantling of the tent city by police was postponed on Thursday, but a protest went ahead as planned.

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It has been almost two years since Lucie Partridge was evicted from her last apartment, where she lived for six years.

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“They kicked me out while I was paying for my apartment – the same day – so they had to give me my money back,” Partridge, 49, said Thursday morning. “I’m so sick of being homeless and I’m still waiting for my apartment. They’ve been trying to get me one for a year and a half.

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Sleeping on the stairs and on the street was untenable and dangerous, so she asked for a tent and set up camp under the Ville-Marie highway about a year ago.

“It’s scary, because you never know if you’re going to be run over by a car,” said the native of Kuujjuaq, in northern Quebec, who moved to Montreal about 20 years ago. .

On Thursday, she was among about 25 people living in the tent camp located between Atwater and Greene avenues in Westmount. Some have been there for months or even years, outreach workers told the Montreal Gazette.

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Police informed the public on Wednesday that they would be moving in to dismantle the tent city, as Transports Quebec said it needed to carry out work on the structures and the area was no longer safe.

The notice sparked a protest on Thursday morning, and although the dismantling of the camp was postponed indefinitely so that Transports Quebec could put in place a plan to shelter those in the tent city, the protest went as intended. It started shortly after 9 a.m. at the Lionel-Groulx metro station, and the participants marched to the Sud-Ouest borough hall, before heading towards the camp and ending at Cabot Square.

When they reached the encampment, several protesters climbed a grassy hill and passed bags containing food and clothing over a chain-link fence to those on the other side. A social worker handed a red box of Tim Hortons donuts to Partridge, which elicited a huge smile and a shout of “Thank you!” »

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“It’s just a delay, and I think if Transports Quebec gets a public disgrace, then they’re just going to take a break for a few minutes and when nobody’s looking, they’re going to bring in the bulldozers and take everyone away,” said said Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and co-director of Resilience Montreal, both located nearby.

“I know they had the idea of ​​maybe bringing in social workers, but if we already know that all the shelters are full and that the population (here) is not welcome in many shelters, so what do we do ? We are just putting people at risk, Nakuset added.

Many of those camped under the highway receive care and services from the organizations Nakuset helps run, but resources are scarce and there is no place to stay overnight. The situation is made worse by the fact that the city dismantled the Raphaël André heated tent in Cabot Square earlier this year. Although there are talks of opening a new warming center in the area, there are no concrete plans to do so, Nakuset said.

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Nakuset called on the municipal, provincial and federal governments to put in place solutions so that people in the camp do not have to live in tents. Last winter, three people died while spending the night outside. One of them, Elisapee Pootoogook, was found dead on the construction site of the condominium towers of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“We’re going to see what happens when they take people out, and people die,” Nakuset said.

Marching at the back of the demonstrators, Anick Desrosiers said it was important for the population to be aware of the situation faced by the most vulnerable in the city.

“Imagine you have next to nothing and you’re on the street with a tent and stuff, and you even lose that. It just destroys people,” said Desrosiers, a psychologist working with people living in margin.

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As for Partridge, her tent was her shelter last winter, and she doesn’t know what she’ll do this winter if she doesn’t have it.

“Sleeping outside in the winter is the hardest part,” she said. “I don’t know where to go, I don’t know where to be. I just have to make sure I’m not on the snow.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Wednesday she was glad the plan to dismantle the encampment had been delayed and said the city would support the city of Westmount, where the encampment is located, to help find a solution. .

She said the city has been asking the province for months to provide predictable, long-term housing solutions for people living on the fringes, rather than setting up temporary emergency shelters every winter.

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  1. Organizers discuss how best to handle traffic in a new heated shelter inside a 40ft by 25ft tent in Place Cabot, Montreal, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.

    Indigenous communities participate in the opening of a heated tent in Cabot Square

  2. About 200 people paid their respects to Elisapee Pootoogook during a memorial ceremony held in Cabot Square in Montreal on November 22, 2021.

    ‘The city must wake up’: Community sheds tears for elderly Inuit woman

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