Ricochet Centre temporarily closing as lease expires on Montreal’s West Island

"They have the right to have a safe environment" says Tania Charron, Executive Director at the Ricochet, as the shelter has been forced to close its doors on May 30. Johanie Bouffard reports.

The Ricochet Centre in Pierrefonds-Roxboro is being forced to close its doors temporarily after its lease expires at the end of May. It was the only shelter on Montreal’s West Island.

“Never did I think that I would have to look at the beneficiaries in their face and tell them that they’re not going to have a place to feel safe and secure. And that was just gut-wrenching,” said Caterina Modica-Amore, program and projects coordinator at Ricochet.

After three years, and four lease extensions, they’re searching for a new space, but have come up empty.

“With the city, with the borough, as soon as I got the news, we met and did another tour to look at what’s available. We found a vacant, well, the city found a vacant building, but we learned on May 21 that it was too contaminated to be suitable to operate. So we’re May 30 right now and we’re closed,” explained Tania Charron, executive director of Ricochet.

Ricochet welcomes adults seeking safety, including professionals, retirees, and those with diverse physical and mental health needs.

“Here at Ricochet, we welcome everybody who’s 18 and over and needs a safe environment. We have men, we have women, we have youth, we have seniors. Some of them are professionals, they go to work every day and come to sleep at Ricochet,” said Charron.

“Some of them are retirees, some of them are disabled, some of them have physical health tissue, many of them have physical health tissue, mental health tissue, but at the end of the day, there are brothers, sisters, daughters, their parents, their grandparents, their neighbours, their friends. They’re humans like me and you who have gone through tragedies, maybe bad decisions, but they have the right to have a safe environment, a safe space to exist.”

Ricochet Centre in Pierrefonds is being forced to close its doors temporarily. (Photo Credit: Johanie Bouffard, CityNews)

Charron’s road to find a new space has been full of pitfalls, and since 2021, she’s been searching: contamination issues, space availability, housing crisis, safety norms, and difficulties navigating with the different governing bodies.

“My first request to the universe is a location that is 10,000 square feet or around that can accommodate our vulnerable people here in their community in the West Island. And if I can have another request to the universe, I would like the system to change, to improve, but this is maybe a request that is too big, so a location will be enough. We just want to feed people, give them love, give them a safe space, give them support. That’s all we want,” explained Charron.

Ricochet Centre in Pierrefonds is being forced to close its doors temporarily. (Photo Credit: Johanie Bouffard, CityNews)

For Benoit Langevin, spokesperson for the homelessness file with the official opposition at city hall, Ensemble Montréal, investment is the solution to meet the growing demand for units and emergency shelters.

“I am very saddened about all the life stories that are in another bump, in another reality where they have to find new strategies to survive, to find alternatives because there’s no shelters between Vaudreuil and Saint-Henri. So we’re in a situation where options are limited and answers have to be answered and that’s not what we’re getting from the city,” said Langevin.

“At some point the city is going to have to cash out, it’s going to have to invest in their vacant buildings which they own in order for them to be able to find alternatives for temporary purposes for sure, but in the meantime that we have sufficient social housing available on this island, there is no magical answer to homelessness other than housing.”

“This is like the fifth closing of a shelter that I see that is related between two levels of government not knowing whose responsibility it is to pay for the immobilization required for operations to happen,” Langevin added.

At a press conference on another topic Thursday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante responded to Ricochet’s situation. “We’ve been working with them trying to find solutions. And it’s an ongoing process. You know, every time there’s a shelter, it is the overall responsibility of the government of Quebec. The City of Montreal is there to support in finding places and sites. For this one, let me get around like maybe where they’re having trouble with finding it. But we will continue to support them.”

“Until we find our big dream place, I think it’s important to know that Ricochet’s values and our mission are going to still continue and we’re going to be able to try to help any way we can,” said Modica-Amore.

Ricochet Centre in Pierrefonds is being forced to close its doors temporarily. (Photo Credit: Johanie Bouffard, CityNews)

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