08/18/2014 07:00 EDT | Updated 10/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Montreal councillor pushes for advocate for the homeless

Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand wants to see the city have a designated advocate for the homeless.

Rotrand put forward a motion Monday at City Hall to create the position, which would synchronize all services which help people living on the street.

"I was inspired by Judy Graves who spent more than 20 years in this position who cut through the red tape of the bureaucrats who didn't want to talk to another department," Rotrand said.

Graves worked as a designated advocate for the homeless in Vancouver for more than 20 years before she retired last summer.

People who work with the homeless in Montreal said a designated advocate is much-needed.

“There's been a lack of coordination — not necessarily a lack of resources — because there are many organizations working in Montreal to help homeless people," said Melissa Bellerose, spokeswoman for Montreal homeless shelter The Old Brewery Mission

Michel Dubois, a member of a committee representing people who use two shelters in Montreal — La Maison du Pere and The Old Brewery Mission — said Rotrand’s idea is a good one provided the advocate is someone who has experience on the streets and not a politician or an academic.  

“People who are homeless don't have a voice. All these people are talking for us, but they don't come and ask us directly," Dubois said.

Besides wanting to create a new advocate position, Rotrand is also calling for a number of other changes, such as building 100 more units of rooming houses and getting an accurate count of just how many people in Montreal have nowhere to live.

Currently, it is not known exactly how many homeless people are in Montreal. The last time officials got a tally was in 1998.

"The city's got to rethink what it has done. There are best practices in Vancouver and Toronto that are far ahead of what we do," Rotrand said.

The opposition councillor needs the support of the mayor's party for his motion to pass.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he will comment on the proposal only after it’s debated in council.