Hotel Place Dupuis in downtown Montreal has long offered its guests upscale, somewhat costly accommodations with a range of amenities just steps from the city’s tourist attractions.
But nowadays, the tourism industry is stagnating while the number of homeless people living outdoors is growing. So, the city teamed up with the province to offer 380 hotel beds to those in need.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve noticed that there’s more and more people that are actually in the streets,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Tuesday.
“Maybe before, they were sleeping on someone’s couch, or they were managing, but right now it’s more difficult.”
The mayor is hoping the hotel will deter people from staying in encampments like the one on Notre-Dame Street, east of downtown.
“I’m definitely asking the population — the people in their tents right now — to slowly accept the support we are offering them,” said Plante.
The stretch of green space that serves as a buffer between Notre-Dame and the densely packed neighbourhood to the north filled up with tents over the summer and fall after the city relaxed its ban on camping in public spaces.
Several encampments popped up around the city, though few are as prominent as the one on Notre-Dame.
The hotel beds will be available until March. Plante said there will be floors for men and women — ensuring people can be comfortable in the hotel.
Hotel owners ready to help
Eve Paré, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal, said many hotels in the area have been offering services to assist with the pandemic, be it to for health-care workers or victims of domestic abuse.
“Now this is the latest, with homeless people,” she said. “With us, it’s a duty to care.”
In this situation, the hotel owner was already planning renovations, so the timing was ideal as the space does need to be adjusted before welcoming homeless people.
Paré said the owner is happy to help through the winter, but it’s not the ultimate fix to a serious problem. She said long-term solutions are needed.
Looking for long-term solution
The Welcome Hall Mission will be managing the shelter inside the hotel. It will be run with public health measures in place, and be open to people of all genders and their pets too.
Sam Watts, the organization’s CEO, said the hotel will be designed to help people connect with resources and, hopefully, to begin the process of getting off the streets for good.
“This is not just about the night, it’s about the future,” said Watts. “People staying the night will be able to connect with different resources.”
He said there will be outreach workers who will meet with those who come stay and “what we’re going to do is find out what they need and refer them to that right spot.”