NEWS
12/16/2013 05:23 EST | Updated 02/15/2014 05:59 EST

Aboriginal homeless in Montreal get new help

New services are on the way to help with a growing number of homeless First Nations people in Montreal, city officials confirmed Monday.

Inuit and aboriginal people represent almost one-third of the homeless in the city, where they often gather at Metro stations.

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New services by the Société de développement social de Ville-Marie (SDVSM) will now be available in five Metro stations. Three people will patrol the Berri-UQAM, Bonaventure, McGill and Atwater Metro stations and be able to offer much more than socks and juice to homeless Inuit and aboriginal people.

"We are talking about going out there and direct them to shelters where they can get three meals a day, showers, haircut, cleaning services, but also health exams, with Doctors Without Borders, because they usually don’t go to the hospital," said Damien Silès, general director at the SDSVM.

“It is more than an initiative to feel good before the holidays,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. “We have the political will to make it a three-year investment.”

A mobile home with a doctor and health services will also go around the city. Almost seven out of 10 homeless persons have a mental health issue, according to Dr. Nicolas Bergeron from Doctors Without Borders.

Makivik Corporation is a partner in this initiative. “We face an important housing crisis in northern Quebec, that is part of why there is this situation in the city,” said Makivik executive assistant Robbie Watt.

“Makivik Corporation, representing the interests of Inuit of Nunavik, is providing services to all Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Agreement," added Watt, "even when they live a situation in Montreal."

For now, the second phase of this program does not include a new Inuit and aboriginal homeless shelter, but Silès said one is on the way for 2015. “Everything is almost secure in terms of financing and permits, but we are not yet able to confirm its location.”

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