Residents of Montreal’s Chinatown call on city to help homeless living in encampment at Guy-Favreau

“We’ve been living in a very, very tough situation,” said Alain Clavet, a resident of Montreal's Chinatown calling on the city to act on the homeless encampment set up in front of Complexe Guy-Favreau. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By News Staff

Residents of Complexe Guy-Favreau in Montreal’s Chinatown are calling on municipal authorities to step in and help the homeless people that occupy the front of their building and dismantle the tents there, as they say it’s creating health and safety concerns. 

“We’ve been living in a very, very tough situation for four years,” said Alain Clavet, who has been living in the building with his partner Martine Ousset for the last nine years.

He’s among those who have complained to the police, to no avail.

Alain Clavet and his partner Martine Ousset, residents of Montreal’s Chinatown. (Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

“I’ll complain about noise, security, even noise during the night,” he said, adding that residents are often woken up at 5 a.m. because of noise. “It’s just not acceptable. And in the building, you have older people from Chinese origin or other origins, and they’re shy. They’re afraid to go outside.”

Clavet, along with other residents, have been working on combatting the issues with Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.

They’re blaming both the police and the city for failing to enforce municipal by-laws concerning noise, illegal parking, littering, etc.

“All these things that are governed by municipal by-laws and people say that it’s about time that they want to have their neighborhood and their streets back,” Niemi said.

They are calling on authorities to help ensure peace and quality of life in the neighbourhood.

“If people like us move away, what’s the conclusion? That the old residents have to go because the city cannot solve the problem? It doesn’t make sense,” Clavet said.

A homeless shelter used to be located in Complexe Guy-Favreau and was closed in December and moved over to Verdun. But that one will soon close too at the end of July. A new one is set to open in Ahuntsic-Cartierville in August.

But Clavet says the issues of homelessness and addiction have remained in Chinatown and says police are often present to remove the tents.

“Every eight days, you have to do it again because they come back,” he said. “It’s not a solution. The solution is to give a small apartment, even a room to these people.”

Alain Clavet and his partner Martine Ousset with Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations. (Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

As Clavet and Niemi claim the city lacks action on this front, residents will come together and form an advocacy organization.

“Many Chinese residents culturally are sometimes reluctant to speak up and speak out, so we’re helping organize it,” Niemi said. “We’re going to announce in less than two weeks the creation of an association of Chinatown residents, composed of people of all backgrounds, people who live here, who will hopefully take things in their own hands.” 

A spokesperson for the City of Montreal tells CityNews that the phenomenon of encampments is a concern for them and that two liaison officers are dedicated full-time to work with the SPVM and homelessness partners to refer people to accommodation services.

They say intervention workers are onsite often and municipal teams monitor people and carry out dismantling and cleaning of sites regularly.

:More particularly for Chinatown and the surroundings of the Guy-Favreau Complex, campers and street sleepers represent for some a group of users of very strong drugs. The City of Montreal is in discussions with the health and social services network regarding intervention with these vulnerable people who require a medical approach given their specific situation.”

“The main word is compassion,” Clavet said. “I think we should have compassion in action. We have to do something. We cannot let people like that on the street.”

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