09/26/2014 08:06 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST

Coderre unveils plan to fight homelessness

Mayor Denis Coderre's administration wants to find out exactly how many homeless people live in Montreal as part of an action plan to address housing, public spaces and policing.  

Coderre said the city will collaborate with shelters and university researchers to launch a “homeless census.”

“This is an issue. Of course it’s not jazzy. Most of the time people just bury their heads in the sand or don’t look at [homeless people],” said Coderre. “I think the most important thing that we’re sending as a message today is that the city of Montreal will take a lead.”

The mayor said the city's statistics are outdated and that makes it impossible to know where to put resources.

He said that a census will paint a more comprehensive picture of Montreal’s homeless situation that will allow it to evaluate the systems in place and make recommendations for the next three years of his administration.

The administration plans to carry out 12 measures and 40 commitments, which includes kicking in an extra $1 million for the city's homeless program.

'Unblocking' the system

The Director General of the Old Brewery Mission, Matthew Pearce, estimates there are close to 6000 homeless people in Montreal.

He says his shelter sees about 4000 clients a year, and while 80 per cent of them are homeless temporarily, a small percentage have lived at the shelter for years.

“Let's get the system unblocked, and let's create a whole new way of dealing with people who fall onto the street,” said Pearce.

Part of the Coderre administration’s strategy is to create 600 social housing units and 400 rooming house beds.

Serge Légaré has been staying at the Maison du Père shelter for three weeks since he was evicted from his apartment.

“I used to be independent. Now I depend on them. I don't like [it]. I can't wait until I get out of there,” said Légaré. “I'm going to turn 60 and it's the first time in my life I don't have a roof.”

Coderre's plan includes a new Homelessness Advocate position, to help direct people to the services they need.

It will also address how police interact with the homeless, which Coderre says will help minimize the persecution of an already vulnerable group.