Several Plateau-Mont-Royal residents say crime and vandalism have increased in their neighborhood since the opening of a new 24-hour shelter in the former Hôtel-Dieu hospital.
“At first it was just a bit of drugs, now it’s spilled onto our property where they’re doing drugs in front of us and there’s vandalism,” says Dionisia Spallas, who lives on St. -Urban. “I put in surveillance cameras and within two hours there was someone having sex across the street.”
Spallas says it got so bad she practically has 911 on speed dial.
Even if the police intervene, she says it’s not enough.
“We don’t feel safe,” Spallas said.
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The City of Montreal looked into the matter in collaboration with the Montreal Police Service (SPVM) and the Quebec Ministry of Health, which chose the site and funded the project with the local health authority CIUSSS du Center-South-of-the-Island-of-Montreal.
Borough councilor Maeva Vilain indicates that this week, the city deployed a new brigade that has proven itself in other boroughs.
“So citizens can phone them and there will be mediation and direct intervention very quickly,” Vilain said.
Vilain says they have also set up an outdoor space on the premises of the Hotel-Dieu for customers to meet.
Neighbors say it doesn’t work.
“Of course it’s a big mess because they mix people inside with different needs,” says Eric Faille, who also lives on rue Saint-Urbain. “Keep the people who really need the program who aren’t drug addicts or alcoholics, keep the same people because they’re fighting.”
Faille and Spallas say they are sensitive to the needs of the homeless population, but more needs to be done.
“You put a dumpster fire in front of us, now we’re the priority,” Spallas said.
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Quebec’s health ministry referred Global News to Montreal police, saying it was a security issue.
They did not respond to questions about whether they planned to move the shelter to another site before the deadline.
Montreal police say they have deployed additional patrol officers to the area and a mixed team with special training to talk to the homeless population.
“Rest assured that our agents intervene if necessary,” wrote Caroline Labelle, spokesperson for the SPVM, in an email. “We urge citizens to contact 911 or their local neighborhood station when they witness a criminal act.”
Labelle says people can also contact Info-Crime Montreal anonymously by calling 514 393-1133 or filling out its online form.
Despite this, some neighbors feel so desperate that they simply leave the area.
“It’s been very confusing, disappointing and difficult to live with,” said David Robertson, who is selling his apartment. “People don’t listen to us”
Meanwhile, the Old Brewery Mission, which operates the shelter on behalf of the ministry, says it is trying to find solutions to the problem.
The Old Brewery Mission’s communications director, Marie-Pier Therrien, says they are working to create a task force that will raise awareness and talk to people in the area who are deemed problematic.
“We really understand that the situation is in no way acceptable for them (neighbors),” said Therrien. “We also educate our residents at the Old Brewery Mission so that they have a code of conduct that they sign when they join and we certainly encourage them to follow it.”
The Old Brewery Mission says the Department of Health is the only entity that can decide to move the site.
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