NEWS

Montreal homeless shelters fill up as deep freeze settles over city

01/06/2015 08:38 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
Many of Montreal’s homeless shelters were over-capacity last night as the first cold snap of the season settled in over the city.

Matthew Pearce, the director of downtown Montreal’s Old Brewery Mission, said they didn’t turn anyone away who came to the shelter seeking a warm place for the night.

"We don’t refuse anyone [when it’s this cold]. We make sure everyone who comes to our doors gets inside, so that means once the beds are full, we will then put mattresses down on the floor of the cafeteria and in hallways if we have to, to make sure that everybody has a space for the night," Pearce said.

Some still choose to sleep outside

He said a shuttle drives around the city at night picking up people and bringing them to shelters. It also swings by Bonaventure Metro station at the end of the night to pick up homeless people who keep warm in the underground.

However, not all those who are homeless were looking for a shelter bed last night, despite frigid temperatures. In fact, some shelters still had beds up for grabs on Monday night.

Part of the reason why some shelters still have space is that homeless people who receive social assistance benefits at the start of each month chose to stay in a motel for the night rather than a shelter.

However, CBC reporter Elias Abboud early on Tuesday morning stopped by Viger Square, a popular sleeping spot for some of Montreal’s homeless, and saw several people huddled up and sleeping in the cold.

Pearce said homeless people who choose to sleep outside rather than in a shelter regardless of the temperature speaks to a more long-term phenomenon.

"The main reason people don’t come to shelters despite the fact that we’ll take them in is because they don’t like the regime of shelter life. They don’t like the rules," Pearce said.

He said regardless of how people feel about shelters, sleeping in the cold is very dangerous and can be fatal. He urged people without homes to seek shelter for the cold nights ahead.

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