04/02/2014 04:43 EDT | Updated 06/02/2014 05:59 EDT

Maison du Père doubles reintegration program for homeless

Today, the Maison du Père men's shelter and residence opened 31 new single rooms, doubling the capacity of its reintegration program.

Maison duPère has been providing emergency shelter, reintegration services, temporary and long-term housing for men in Montreal for the past 45 years. 

The reintegration program provides an affordable room along with legal support, health care services, free meals, laundry and internet access. 

According to Chief Executive Officer France Desjardins, last year 60 per cent of participants found a job or an internship while in the program and 69 per cent found a place to live. 

Desjardins says clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds but most are no longer in touch with their family and friends and many have health problems. She says 66 per cent have a physical health problem and 42.5 per cent have a mental health problem.

"We're very concerned. We want to give a chance to people as much as we can. They shouldn't be living outdoors. That's not a life," says Desjardins.

The most recent statistics on homelessness are more than a decade old. In 1998, the Institut de la statistique du Québec found almost 30,000 people had been to a shelter, soup kitchen or a day centre in Montréal and about 13,000 did not have a fixed address that year. 

New rooms

Each of the new single rooms has a loft-style bed with a desk underneath as well as a chair, a closet and a large window. 

Vincent Lavoie, 35, will be one of the first to move in. 

"It looks very hygienic. It's brand new and it feels peaceful in here," says Lavoie.

He moved to Montreal six months ago and spent three months in the 170-bed Maison du Père shelter before qualifying for the reintegration program. 

For his new room, Lavoie will pay 25 per cent of his salary (when he gets one) plus about $150 per month. This comes out of his unemployment insurance for now. 

"It's definitely not something I wanted to deal with. This is the first time I've had to do this. Every penny is being used to make things happen in this city for myself and my future," says Lavoie.

The $2.5 million expansion is funded in part by the federal government's Canadian Homelessness Partnering Strategy ($700,000), the Caisse Desjardins du Quartier Latin cooperative financial group ($200,000) and the Maison du Père Foundation ($1.5 million).

Volunteers also helped to get the 31 rooms ready. Suzanne Peeling is a retired project manager, who oversaw a recent expansion of the Palais des congrès and work on the Westmount Library. Peeling helped find architects, engineers and contractors and supervised the development at Maison du Père.

Peeling says the work at the Maison du Père is very important and she was happy to help out.