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Montreal's homeless are being left out in the cold past curfew

Last Updated Jan 12, 2021 at 7:23 pm EST

MONTREAL – With shelters overcapacity, Quebec’s homeless population is being left in the cold—past COVID-19 curfew.

Some of Montreal’s homeless population and advocates are calling the curfew unfair for the marginalized and at-risk communities.

The province has said Montreal’s nearly 4,000 homeless people could abide by the 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. curfew by going to shelters, but advocates say there’s just not enough room.

“I really want the government to help, putting us through instead of giving us tickets,” said Annisee, a client at The Open Door shelter.

Jessica Quijano, with Iskweu Project and Defund the Police Coalition, calls the situation volatile, specifically with Indigenous shelters.

“Police saying ‘we’ll take you to a homeless shelter or we’ll ticket you’ is actually putting people in harm’s way.”

And it isn’t always easy to access the available shelters, as some require a document proving a negative COVID-19 test after an outbreak in the community and the holidays led to rising infection rates.

“As homeless people, it’s very hard to get that. It doesn’t make sense” said Annisee.

The executive director of Native Women’s shelter suggests it’s time to call in for back up and bring in the Red Cross or the Canadian army.

The Open Door shelter, which was greenlit to be open 24/7 for the winter, just reopened Monday after shutting down for a few weeks due to plumbing issues and COVID-19 infections in the staff and clients.

Now, the shelter is being told by public health that the capacity of clients allowed has been cut from 65 to 25 and the shelter can’t be open past 9:30 p.m.

“I don’t understand how it could possibly help the public health—sending people already sheltered in place to go out and break the curfew and [be at a greater] risk,” said John Tessier, Interventions coordinator at Open Door.

CityNews reached out to Public Health, but has yet to receive a response.

“They are not the ones that have to look at people they love and care about and who they serve on a daily basis and tell them to leave, get out at 9:30 p.m., past the curfew, and take a chance getting a ticket,” said Tessier.

Premier Francois Legault said there were about 122 stops on the first weekend of curfew involving homeless people, with only one person receiving a $1,550 ticket. Montreal police said that fine was written as a last resort.