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Residents, merchants, school board concerned about new Montreal homeless shelter

Tensions between the city and a group of concerned citizens continue to grow, as plans to convert an abandoned church in Rosemont slowly come into focus.

Residents say the city is ignoring their worries, and that now they’re not the only ones denouncing the approach being taken by authorities.

“The way they’re doing this, I don’t like it,” said Denis Labbe, a longtime resident and business owner.

The City of Montreal is close to acquiring the abandoned Sainte-Bibiane church for $2.5 million. They are planning to do their “due diligence” in July before finalizing the deal and beginning renovations.

In conjunction with the province, Montreal is planning to convert it into a 30 bed, 24/7 homeless shelter.

Residents are worried about the implications for the neighbourhood full of schools and young families. They say authorities like the city’s point man for homelessness, Robert Beaudry, are brushing them aside.

“Last Friday, we received an email from him basically stating that he would not meet with us and he would not involve us in the project,” said  father of two André Gatien, who lives right across from the church.

He showed Global News a letter in which Beaudry says he’ll meet with citizens after the organization running the new facility has already been chosen.

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“We’re going to work with the government of Quebec to find an organization,” Beaudry told Global News. “We’re going to have a neighbourhood roundtable with the population to make sure the service is well-integrated.”

Gatien is part of a citizen coalition that wants a say on what the facility becomes. He says numerous people in the area have ideas, including transitional housing for families or a food bank.

“Mr. Beaudry does not care. He doesn’t know this community. He doesn’t care about this community,” said Gatien.

Beaudry said he’s open to adding resources to the facility, but that the city is set on helping the homeless population.

Gatien is not the only one concerned.

The Centre de services scolaire de Montreal (CSSDM) sent a letter to Rosemont borough officials recently, saying they’re worried because of their recent experience with Maison Benoit Labre.

The safe injection site and homeless resource in Saint-Henri recently opened right next to a school, and has sparked several safety concerns.

“We’re next in line, right? We’re next in line,” said Gatien.

The merchants association on Masson Boulevard recently expressed themselves on the subject too, calling for studies and mitigation measures.

Local business owner Labbe fears homeless people camping out in his storefront.

“Why not demolish it and open a social housing complex?” he said, calling the city’s approach “improvisation.”

Not everyone is worried, however.

“If it’s well managed and people really make sure that everything runs well, I don’t think there should be any kind of problems or issues,” said local resident Maeva Stephanie.

A spokesperson for Lionel Carmant, the minister of social services, said the province is in the midst of doing its due diligence on the project. He pointed out it’s still early in the process and that Quebec wants to make sure all concerned parties are listening to each other.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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