12/10/2013 06:42 EST | Updated 02/09/2014 05:59 EST

Dans La Rue celebrates 25 years with plans to expand

For 25 years, Montreal's Dans La Rue has been helping to make life a little easier for street kids, and now, the charity's birthday celebration includes a plan to expand.

It began when a priest, Father Emmett "Pops" Johns, borrowed $10,000 from the bank to buy a van that would provide services for young people living on the street.

Karine Dion says she began visiting the Dans La Rue van in 1990 while she was homeless in Montreal. 

“When things weren’t going well, I would always come here because I knew that they would help me if I needed it and not judge me,” said Dion.

Dion, who is no longer homeless, says she doesn't know where she would be today without the help she received from Dans La Rue.

“I have no idea what would have happened to me, but I knew that there was always a moment of peace for me there,” says Dion.

Plans to expand

Father Johns has retired, but his work continues with the van still tracing the same route it did back in 1988.

Dans La Rue also has a centre where people can sleep overnight, and soon the charity wants to go a step further with a transition home it intends to set up by 2015.

“That was one of Pops' dreams, so this is the place where we can help the kids find some stability," said Cécile Arbaud, interim director-general at Dans La Rue.

"For many of them, [the van] will address only a part of the problem. Many of them will still be in the community. So we still have to help them in many different ways."

Each year about 800 young people in Montreal use Dans La Rue's services.