02/27/2014 09:44 EST | Updated 04/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Quebec unveils policy on homelessness

The province unveiled its long-awaited policy on poverty and homelessness Thursday in Montreal, and organizations that help the homeless are backing the plan to tackle the problem.

The minister responsible for the document, Véronique Hivon, said it's a preview to a comprehensive plan to not only tackle poverty, but eliminate it.

The plan doesn't outline any specific measures — it's not meant to.

“The action plan is coming, so this is just a preview,” said Hivon, Quebec’s Junior Minister for Social Services.
The document outlines priority areas that include housing, health and income. It also suggests bringing services to the homeless, and facilitating alternative job training programs.

Hivon said some of the broad ideas in the plan may seem obvious, but they’re finally part of an action plan.
“Maybe it was obvious, but it wasn't done ... [The plan’s a way] to say, ‘OK, it's enough.’ We can say this and that, but now we're going to do it.”

Hivon said the government will work on implementing the policy in a few months.

In the PQ’s proposed budget unveiled last week,  the government announced that Quebec will invest 46 million dollars in housing for the homeless and spend 6 million this year on services.

The budget also includes 3,250 new social housing units -- 500 for the homeless -- doubling the current number.

Community groups hopeful

Pierre Gaudreau of RAPSIM — a coalition group of about 100 community organizations that help the homeless — says the funds so far are insufficient, but adds that money isn't everything.

“If we put some money in the hospital system toward community groups — to have adapted services for health there — sometimes that will cost less money,” said Gaudreau, president of RAPSIM.

Montreal’s Old Brewery Mission’s Director General, Matthew Pearce, says it's difficult to say how far the money would go because no one knows exactly how many homeless people there are in Montreal.

However, Pearce says an official count is in the works.

"That count is going to be the real launch of some changes to homelessness," he said, adding that will make it easier to get the most out of any new funding.