Montreal’s 1st supervised drug inhalation site opening in Saint-Henri despite opposition from parents

“We make sure that the people are safe,” said Andréane Desilets, executive director of Maison Benoît Labre, about Montreal’s first supervised drug inhalation site to open on Monday in Saint-Henri. Gareth Madoc-Jones reports.

Montreal’s first supervised drug inhalation site is set to officially open in Saint-Henri on Monday.

Maison Benoît Labre will be a place for residents to safely use injectable and inhalable drugs.

“We get out the safe supply to use but not the actual drugs, and we make sure that the people are safe while using, or we can act if somebody is having an issue with their consumption,” said executive director Andréane Desilets.

The centre also has 36 studio apartments for people experiencing homelessness and dealing with addiction issues and mental illness.

“We do give out meals, we give out showers,” Desilets explained. “It’s a drop-in, so 24/7. It’s a low threshold, so we don’t ask much from people, just to have minimal respect of us and the physical place.”

There has been opposition to the opening of the centre from a group of parents from Victor-Rousselot Elementary. The school is less than 100 metres from the site, and parents feel that’s too close. Last fall they asked the Quebec government to prevent it from opening.

Victor Rousselot Elementary School, which is about 100 metres from a supervised drug inhalation site in Saint-Henri, on April 13, 2024. (Gareth Madoc-Jones, CityNews)

People who live and frequent the area told CityNews they have mixed feelings about it.

“It’s very terrible as a situation, close to school and residence, and we will be facing, everyone will face and see this reality,” said Noëllie Agboton. “But it’s kind of signs of help that we need to do a lot to help those people. They are not just on the street to do drugs… they are vulnerable.”

Added Manon Gilbert: “The kids are over there, it’s not too far, maybe two minutes. It’s good because they have a house for them, but not to the school, no.”

Desilets says Maison Benoît Labre has been “working very hard” with the community and “listening to the concerns.”

“This is an ongoing process, so we are still having the Bon Voisinage Committee every three weeks now so to make sure that we do address situations, if there is any situation going on,” she said.

Andréane Desilets, the executive director of Maison Benoît Labre. (Miguel Fowke-Quintas, CityNews)

She adds there is a real need for the services provided by the supervised drug inhalation site.

“This is why we’re here,” she said.

Maison Benoît Labre was set to open about a year-and-a-half ago, but was delayed due to construction.

“It was a very long process but now we’re here and we’re opening on Monday and we’re very proud,” Desilets said.

Maison Benoît Labre, a supervised drug inhalation site, in Saint-Henri on April 13, 2024. (Gareth Madoc-Jones, CityNews)

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