COVID-19 has made things worse for those with no roof over their heads
Homeless people in Laval – who’ve been left largely without anywhere to stay overnight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – are gaining a measure of security with an announcement by the CISSS de Laval of the opening of a temporary shelter at the former Place des Aînés in Chomedey to accommodate up to 30 homeless.
Caring for the homeless
The CISSS is sponsoring the shelter, which opened on June 3 in the senior citizens’ community centre on Curé Labelle Blvd., which remains closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new site replaces a homeless shelter that was being operated at the Centre Josée-Faucher in Laval-des-Rapides until June 1.
In keeping with provincial government directives to ensure that the needs of the homeless were being met during the pandemic, and to prevent COVID-19 from being spread unnecessarily, the CISSS de Laval worked in conjunction with the City of Laval and with Travail de rue de l’île de Laval (TRIL), which helps the homeless, to provide the homeless in Laval with meals, medical help and wash-up facilities for their well-being and comfort.
According to the CISSS, the shelter will be offering its services to men and women with no fixed address from 4 pm to 8 am every day.
A collaborative effort
Other groups and organizations that contributed resources to making the shelter possible include the Commission scolaire de Laval, École Mont-de-Lasalle, Carrefour jeunesse Emploi, the Centre d’intégration libre de Laval, Diapason-Jeunesse, L’Aviron, Mesures alternatives jeunesse de Laval, the Oasis mobile intervention unit and SPHÈRE santé sexuelle globale.
Community groups in Laval, which normally provide support to the homeless, were forced to greatly curtail their services because of confinement issues. “Because of the economic damage linked to COVID-19, they told us that some people could find themselves without a fixed address,” said Jean Fallon, a community relations intervener with CISSS de Laval.
More homeless now?
A big question being asked now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is whether the crisis has indeed driven the numbers of homeless in Laval higher. Over the last two years or so, the CISSS has estimated the number of chronically homeless in Laval to be fewer than 150. Still, Fallon acknowledged to journalists touring the new homeless shelter, some have been living in cars and in other ways just on the margin of homelessness.
TRIL had been operating the homeless shelter at the Centre sportif Josée-Faucher since March 13, allowing 86 people to receive shelter and nourishment in a safe environment. However, the CSDL was taking back the facility for its own purposes, making it necessary to set up the new shelter in Chomedey.
No other place to go
Michaël Beaulieu, a street worker with TRIL, noted that with the forced closing of their usual overnight shelters, persons with no fixed address would otherwise find themselves without access to washrooms and toilets, since restaurants and shopping centres, where they normally go, are closed during the pandemic.
While a safe and comfortable place to sleep at night is important to many homeless, others also appreciate being able to drop by the shelter during the hours it will be open during the day. The sleeping areas will be divided between men and women and there will be security personnel on hand. The shelter has the support of the Laval Police Department and it is expected to remain open for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.