01/02/2013 09:10 EST | Updated 03/04/2013 05:12 EST

Mile End charity struggles in the face of gentrification

A Montreal organization says it is finding it hard to serve the most needy when residents are blind to signs of poverty in their booming neighbourhood.

Linda-Lou Hachey, executive director of the Mile End Mission, says people living in the trendy Mile End neighbourhood might be unaware of the mission's needs.

Staff at the mission said food donations merely two weeks before Christmas were nearly 50 per cent less than what they had received last year.

Last-minute help from local businesses allowed the organization to hand out 150 Christmas food baskets to people in need.

The Mile End neighbourhood, located in Montreal's Plateau Mont Royal borough, has been growing exponentially in recent years, and Hachey believes some of the people living there forget about some of their underprivileged neighbours.

"With all the condos being built in the area, people would think that there aren't a lot of poor people living in the area. But actually, it's not true at all," said Hachey.

"If anything, those people had to move to less quality apartments — in many cases, substandard rooming houses in the neighborhood. So the need for resources is still quite high."

The Mile End Mission opened in 1991, when the neighbourhood had none of the trendy streets or boutiques that have made real estate prices soar there.

It used to serve about 20 people per week. Now, the local charity helps out nearly 300 people and gives out more than 100 food baskets and clothing every week.

"With the high cost of apartments, 10 years, 15 years ago, it was easier to be poor here," said Hachey.

"The rents were low. I, myself, lived here in Mile End, but had to move out because they turned it into condos."

She said she hopes residents will pay attention to the signs of poverty around them.