07/22/2014 09:12 EDT | Updated 09/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Montreal groups say feds blocking homeless funds

A group representing 102 community advocacy organizations across Montreal is calling on the federal government to release more than $3 million earmarked for housing the city's homeless.

The group RAPSIM  says the $3.2 million is part of Montreal's 2014 allotment through the federal government's Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

The delay is compounding a situation that advocates say is getting worse in Montreal, and RAPSIM is calling unacceptable.

According to the organization, the occupancy rate at women’s shelters on the island was running at 124 per cent last week.

Over the previous winter, Montreal’s shelters for men saw a four per cent increase in demand.

Montreal’s homeless population is estimated at around 30,000 individuals, 30 per cent of whom are women.

Community organizations want to use the promised funds to build permanent, long-term housing that the city’s homeless can call their own, and provide them with the social services they require.

Federal 'Housing First' approach criticized

RAPSIM says the problem is the federal government' Housing First approach favours renting units in existing buildings.

“The Tory approach is to rent private dwellings and to have homeless live there,” RAPSIM’s Pierre Gaudreau told CBC News.

Gaudreau points to a proposed housing project in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough as the kind of development favoured by the organizations RAPSIM represents.

Spearheaded by the group L’Avenue, the project would turn a vacant building on Ste-Catherine Street East into renovated apartments for 26 homeless youths. 

“The 26 apartments are going to permanent. People are going to stay here. They going to have access to a social worker to help them with every step in their life,” said L’Avenue’s Francois Villemure.

The Quebec government is in the process of negotiating with Ottawa to unblock the funds.