August 4, 2021 - No. 65

Stop Use of Police Powers to Address Homelessness
and Attack Human Dignity!

Brutal Ongoing Evictions of Residents
of Toronto Encampments

Police brutally evict homeless from Lamport Stadium Park encampment (N. Lachance)

• Dismantling of Notre-Dame Street Homeless Camp in Montreal

• Report on Living Conditions at Gatineau Emergency Shelters
- Alexandre Deschênes

Stop Use of Police Powers to Address Homelessness
and Attack Human Dignity!

Brutal Ongoing Evictions of Residents of
Toronto Encampments

Attacks on homeless persons living in several encampments in parks throughout Toronto have been stepped up during the summer months, in the form of forced evictions by the police enforcing a notice of trespass issued by the City on June 12. The notices warn the homeless people that they could be removed and fined up to $10,000 if convicted, as if those experiencing homelessness could afford to pay such fines. The attacks have been met by widespread opposition from the homeless, organizations that fight for the right to housing for all and other supporters.

The latest such use of police violence to dismantle an encampment and evict the residents took place on July 21 at Lamport Stadium Park, where 26 people were arrested. Aliya Pabani, a volunteer with Encampment Support Network Toronto, told CBC News that she was pepper sprayed while several other demonstrators were hurt by police. "People got massive injuries," Pabani said. "They were punching people ... putting knees on people's necks." She described the attack as "brutal" and "a disgusting display of force," adding some people required stitches for their injuries.

For videos of the eviction click here.

The eviction at Lamport Stadium Park followed a police assault and evictions at Alexandra Park the day before, where at least nine people were arrested. While a previous eviction of an encampment was met with hundreds of people protesting, on this occasion a temporary fence was erected in the early morning in an attempt to keep out protestors as well as the media, so that the police could carry out their assault with impunity. Domenico Saxida, a resident of the encampment called the clearing of the park by police and security "completely unnecessary." He told CBC News that many residents had already begun to leave, with some opting to move to city-run hotels and shelters, while others had managed to find more permanent housing. Saxida said he didn't know where he would go next and that he is worried for others who were forced from the encampment. "There are a few women in this park. I would like to know, where are they going to go? What are they going to do? The shelters are overloaded, the hotels are all overloaded. They're unsafe," he said.

Alexandra Park police assault and eviction.

On June 22, hundreds of people rallied at Trinity Bellwoods Park to resist and hold to account a huge police presence sent to forcibly evict a homeless encampment from the park. An estimated 400-500 people stood up to at least 100 police armed with tear gas, rubber bullets and worse, to prevent the destruction of the encampment and eviction of the 25 or more homeless people who had been living there. The stand-off with police lasted 12 hours before the homeless were removed. A number of those standing up for the rights of the homeless were arrested.

City staff were reported to have arrived early in the morning to effect the evictions. Encampment residents were give a few hours to gather their things and leave. Media reports say they were instructed to move to designated shelter spaces.

For video of resistance to the eviction of the homeless from Trinity Bellwoods encampment click here. 

In the wake of these events, five city councillors on July 23 signed and released a letter calling for an end to violence during forced evictions at homeless encampments in city parks, ahead of the next such action, which they expect at Moss Park in the coming weeks. "In advance of this imminent clearing, we demand an end to the violence and extreme show of force. There is absolutely no need for batons, pepper spray or even guns, not when the work should be done by the City's Streets to Home staff and other outreach workers," they wrote.[1]

The city councillors' letter was preceded by one sent to Mayor Tory on July 9, entitled "A Path Forward" and signed by 207 organizations and community leaders, "demanding that Mayor John Tory and the City end the forcible removal of encampments and police use-of-force against unhoused people, and commit to a human rights-compliant approach to engaging with unhoused people."[2] The letter was submitted for the July 15 City Council meeting, but was not added to the agenda by the Council or the Mayor.

On any given night in Toronto there are an estimated 10,000 homeless people. The overcrowded conditions in Toronto's homeless facilities have created a humanitarian crisis that threatens the many vulnerable people who use these spaces as well as shelter staff and volunteers, and local communities, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Mayor John Tory blames those standing up for the rights of the homeless for creating a problem, accusing them of using the situation to "make a statement." The Mayor holds to the argument that encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code and are not a solution to homelessness.

The city proclaims such rules and regulations, paying little or no regard to the requirement that Canadian society uphold its commitment of adequate housing as a basic right belonging to all people. Such "rules" are in violation of laws and international conventions that Canada is a signatory to.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights clearly states: The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has underlined that the right to adequate housing should not be interpreted narrowly.[3] Rather, it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity. Protection against forced evictions and the arbitrary destruction and demolition of one's home is explicit within the right to adequate housing.

Canada's deeds speak way louder than its words. Workers' Forum condemns the forceful evictions of the homeless and the massive police presence deployed against them. Housing and adequate shelter is a fundamental right!


1. "Open Letter to Mayor Tory -- Ending Police Enforcement of Encampment Clearings," July 23, 2021.

2. "A Path Forward," Letter to Mayor Tory, July 9, 2021.

3. The Right to Adequate Housing, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Fact Sheet 21

(Photos: Hamilton ESN, SHJN, S. Punwasi, M. Reis, C. Leung, S. Jama)

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Dismantling of Notre-Dame Street
Homeless Camp in Montreal

At around 6:00 am on the morning of December 7, 2020, Montreal police launched a violent attack on the homeless by evicting them from the camp they had set up on Notre-Dame Street in east-end Montreal. In April 2020, a dozen or so homeless persons began setting up a homeless camp in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. In June, as the temporary shelters that housed the homeless during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic were closed one after the other and with the second wave of the pandemic coming on, the camp grew to 300 tents.

Throughout the summer and fall, the occupants organized themselves into a collective to look after each other by creating a kitchen area and a space for exchange. Each day, they received the support of residents in the area in the form of visits and donations of material and food. They were active on social media to make their demands known and show how they were organizing themselves daily to distribute the material and donations according to the campers' needs. They let it be known publicly that the issue posed and to be resolved is access to decent housing in all its forms, from the price of rents to sanitary conditions that defend human dignity. They informed the visitors and media who came to meet with them that the regulations for access to shelters -- no arrivals before 8:00 pm, the prohibition on having a companion in one's room, mandatory departure by 6:00 am, etc. are not acceptable conditions for anyone. The enormous support they garnered from organizations and the population shows how the affirmation of human dignity must be defended through concrete social measures that all levels of government must provide.

On the morning of December 7, hundreds of police officers established a "security" perimeter around the campers, using threats, arrests and violence to forcibly evict them. "To have mobilized 250 police officers on horseback, bicycle and in cars, with riot gear and even a helicopter was completely disproportionate. They even threatened the campers with arrest, forcing them to leave. It's unacceptable," Marine Armengaud of the Comité BAILS, a housing rights organization located in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood, said to the press. The homeless were treated as if they were criminals, with the police preventing resource persons from different aid organizations from entering the eviction zone to give support to the campers, if only to help them collect their personal belongings. Sylvie Boivin, Director of L'Anonyme, another organization that assists the homeless, told reporters, "It is totally unacceptable that workers who have been offering psychosocial support to campers for several months during these difficult times have been denied access to the site."

The Montreal Fire Department also participated in dismantling the camp, under the pretext that a candle had started a fire in one of the tents the Saturday before. People were asking that if the goal is to ensure everyone's safety, how is that achieved by the police and fire departments and the City of Montreal violently evicting people causing untold trauma? What about their demand for the construction of safe affordable housing? People were forced to watch their meagre posssessions and tents being holus bolus thrown into garbage disposal trucks. 

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told the media that "[...] when the Fire Department decided that the site was no longer safe, that it had to be evacuated, I endorsed this decision with the Ministry of Transport." Despite the fact that she has long been asking the Quebec government to invest the necessary funds for the construction of social housing, it's the police powers that are being called upon to criminalize those who are the victims of a social housing crisis that has been known and recognized for years in Montreal. And this, less than 48 hours before International Human Rights Day.

That same day, organizations defending the right to housing issued a communiqué denouncing the repression and criminalization of those who are fighting to live a dignified life. The use of police powers, instead of a serious exchange with the homeless and those involved who have experience in housing needs and who have been proposing solutions for years, was justly opposed. The press release points out that: "[...] Based on Mayor Valérie Plante's own words, homelessness has increased by 60 per cent in Montreal since March 2020. For years now, the city and governments have been over-investing in police operations and favouring emergency housing solutions rather than those that are long-term, such as social housing, and it's high time this changes. We have concrete proposals and would like to finally be heard. [...] RAPSIM, TOMS and the Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK, in support of the Collectif on ne laisse personne derrière [Leave No One Behind Collective], have been challenging the City of Montreal for months regarding solutions adapted to the needs of people at the camp, including fire prevention training by firefighters and the development of safe facilities. Camps are multiplying on the island of Montreal and urgent responses are being demanded."

Montreal has been experiencing a housing crisis for years. It's a social problem requiring a pro-social solution, not the violent intervention of police forces. The City of Montreal and the Legault government must take up their social responsibility and, as a starting point, address the demand of the homeless and their defence organizations for the realization of housing as a right.

(Quotations translated from original French by WF. Photos: FRAPRU, RAPSIM)

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Report on Living Conditions at
Gatineau Emergency Shelter

The following report describes the living conditions of residents and the working conditions of staff at the emergency shelter that was set up in the Robert-Guertin Arena in the Hull sector of Gatineau, Quebec in March 2020. The shelter continued to operate until July 1, 2021 when residents were relocated to motels and other accommodations.


On February 13, 2021, the Collectif régional de lutte à l'itinérance en Outaouais (CRIO) was mandated by the Soupe Populaire de Hull (Hull Soup Kitchen -- SPH) to conduct an observation mission on living conditions at the Robert-Guertin Arena (ARG) emergency shelter. CRIO conducted an on-site observation and held discussions with citizens housed there, the management and coordination of the Soupe Populaire, as well as other stakeholders and partners.

The report produced highlights the particular context in which this centre was opened. It analyzes the physical layout of the premises, which is poorly adapted to the needs of the three categories of citizens housed there. It highlights multiple issues experienced by both the residents (deterioration of mental health, health and safety issues, difficulties in meeting the criteria for accessing transitional housing due to the very structure of the shelter, etc.) and the staff (overload, exhaustion, turnover, violence, insecurity, etc.). It shows how the current form of the management structure complicates the implementation of changes. The report also highlights the impossibility of respecting certain fundamental rights under the current living conditions, which are continuing beyond the initial schedule, even though the arena is considered a temporary solution, which, nevertheless, will continue being used going forward.

Finally, the report makes clear recommendations, which can be broken down into three main areas: the relocation of the housed citizens; the creation of a joint coordination committee between the partners; and the promotion of a participatory approach, which is nevertheless impossible in the current context.

1. Setting the Context

The global pandemic situation that is affecting us has forced public and health authorities to reorganize shelter spaces. A so-called "temporary" emergency shelter was hastily set up in March 2020 to accommodate people in a homeless situation. The first site chosen at the Père Arthur Guertin centre in the Lambert district was not suitable for the growing demand. Difficulties were also experienced in cohabiting with the residents of the neighbourhood due to the large number of citizens being housed there. The civil authorities decided to move the accommodation to the ARG in May 2020. This site is still in use to this day.

This centre is managed by the SPH. However, what was intended to be a temporary situation is now extending beyond the time initially allotted. Concerted meetings between the various stakeholders to form a relocation committee have not led to any long-term solution. The ARG can accommodate a set maximum capacity of 59 housed citizens. While this initially met the demand, the arrival of cold weather and the significant increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness caused it to reach a breaking point. As the maximum capacity was reached, some people were refused access at the entrance.

As a result of the prolonged occupation of the premises, tensions between housed citizens, the deterioration of their mental health as well as the precariousness of the working conditions were repeatedly underlined by the site manager to the ARG. The CRIO was therefore mandated to produce a report on possible human rights violations within the shelter.

This report therefore presents our observations and recommendations to ensure that these rights are respected. We will demonstrate throughout the report that the suggested changes are the responsibility of provincial authorities, beyond the scope of the community and administrative authorities that currently manage the ARG.

The observation was conducted over a three-hour period within the ARG. Four men and one woman (8.7 per cent of the population present) were interviewed. Upon our arrival, two beds were still vacant. The emergency shelter coordinator at the ARG was also consulted as well as the executive director of the SPH and the management of the Gîte Ami shelter. Community and humanitarian stakeholders were contacted for consultation purposes.

2. Observation Report and Comments from Housed Citizens

2.1 The physical location

The 59 cubicles serving as rooms are arranged in an oblong fashion around the perimeter of the ice rink. Separated only by black sheets and with the front open to the centre, privacy is thus compromised or even non-existent. In this sense, a housed citizen mentions, "My room is located right in front of where the speakers are. There is just a small wall separating me. They can all see me. I have no privacy." Moreover, since no soundproofing is possible with sheets, the noise is constant, not to mention the incessant screaming of people in crisis due to a mental health condition requiring medical follow-up, or of people in a state of drug consumption. This situation creates an environment of constant tension, highly anxiety-provoking not only for the residents, but also for the workers. We observed a domino effect of an isolated event, which led to the disorientation of several sheltered persons and which ended with the arrival of the police force.

Note that orange boundary lines are visible at the front of the cubicle to delineate not only the space, but also the boundary that must be respected to comply with measures taken to contain possible COVID-19 infections.

Large tables are set up in the centre, with chairs spaced two metres apart to comply with sanitary measures. However, because of the number of people, but especially because of their psychological state, the measures required by public health are difficult to apply without creating new tensions between employees and residents. Indeed, a certain cognitive and emotional stability is required to understand the magnitude of the pandemic crisis and the importance of measures such as the wearing of personal protective equipment or physical distancing. However, for various reasons (people in a state of disorientation, people in a state of consumption, people in a state of survival), there is a certain dichotomy in the understanding of the said issues among some ARG residents, which prevents the full application of the measures and fosters a feeling of injustice experienced by these people who do not grasp the urgency of the pandemic impacts. The desire to maintain the calmest possible climate thus takes precedence over the application of measures in a highly cacophonous, even unstable, living environment. This leads to a lack of clarity in the application of rules and creates a vicious circle when there is an attempt at control. In this regard, another housed citizen states: "We are asked not to enter the room to keep the two metres, but we can have dinner within two metres. We are obliged to wear the masks but the person in psychosis is not."

The rest of the arena surface is used for moving about. A television is installed there, the only real activity inside the walls. If the SPH would like to offer workshops and activities to the citizens housed, a lack of workers on the floor prevents this initiative. The survival situation that the organization faces, due to a lack of human resources, hinders its adoption of an intervention approach focussed on development and recovery of the housed citizens. This translates into a disturbing observation: several people in the shelter are pacing incessantly, a symptom of confinement in a place that is unsuitable for people requiring mental health medical follow-up.

At the time of the observation, no laundry facilities were available on site, compromising the right to hygiene and health. A housed citizen mentioned: "It costs us a cab there and back, and the laundry costs. I don't have $50 to put into laundry every week." As for personal hygiene amenities, another said, "the water (in the shower) is either freezing or boiling. It doesn't encourage you to shower. Plus, a lot of people never take one. It's not livable. The plumbing is old and not adapted to such a large group." Another said, "The toilets are always broken, and we only have one sink for all the men." The SPH said that they frequently have to call "311" because the toilets are often blocked, sometimes several times a day. Finally, in their complaints, the housed citizens underline the lack of electrical outlets for their telephone and that the place reserved for this purpose (the centre of the ice rink) encourages theft. "How do you expect us to get a job if we don't have a phone?" asked one of the people we met. It should also be noted that, according to the SPH, since the citizens housed do not have a room with a door, nor a personal closed space for storage, they often have their belongings stolen, which adds to their mental burden and makes them hyper-vigilant.

2.2 High staff turnover

It was noted that in the past year, 180 employees have been documented by human resources. The high turnover rate compromises not only the integration of knowledge, but also its acquisition, and adds an additional burden on the employees who must constantly repeat the training. Also, the bonds of trust between workers and residents become impossible to develop. This bond is vital for the stability of the person receiving the attention, and therefore in a more global perspective, for the general atmosphere. The lack of experience of the new employees favours self-regulation by the sheltered citizens: self-regulation which occurs, however, through verbal violence, intimidation and threats, as we have observed. Moreover, the laws of the street create a harmful dialectic with the house rules that the SPH tries so hard to implement, and which compromises internal security for everyone. Another effect is that support staff who resign often find the conditions of community work (in general) not to be advantageous, which jeopardizes the hiring process not only of the SPH, but also of other agencies. This gives the SPH a bad name and affects its ability to attract specialized people.

2.3 Three groups of people who require facilities tailored to their needs

We have observed that the people who have found refuge at the ARG fall into three main categories: autonomous people, semi-autonomous people and people requiring ongoing clinical mental health follow-up. The mixing of these three categories in one place greatly compromises the health and safety of these people, but also of the workers. Independent people are denied access to an improvement in their lot, as underlined by comments such as: "When you give your address and it's the Arena, forget about the job or housing. They don't call you back when they don't just hang up on you" and "You know, the conditions for going into the transitional program, forget about it, it's too strict, impossible to get there." This impression may stem from the fact that the criteria for transitional housing, although entirely attainable, are difficult to meet for people living in the AGR, since this place was not originally designed with housing in mind. For example, although the participatory approach and the individual care of the housed citizens is an eligibility criterion for transitional housing, the AGR as currently organized (high density and social mix, atmosphere not conducive to rest, lack of access to basic services, disorientation of others) does not favour the engagement of the housed citizens, who find themselves in a survival situation. Thus, the internal structure and its associated issues can be an additional barrier to meeting the eligibility criteria for either the transition or the St. Anthony Project. Whether due to lack of space or lack of preparation, a transitional failure can have an impact on the motivation of the housed citizens. It is important to note that these projects are promising, offering structure, but should always be increased in a way that is adapted to the specific needs of the three main categories of people.

Three of the people we met are actively looking for housing, but the current and permanent crisis in the Outaouais, marked by a shortage of vacant units in the rental housing market and an increase in prices, make this option unattainable. Mixing with people with multiple mental health issues affects their sleep considerably. Lack of activity drives consumption: "What else do you want us to do?" If this problem exists for autonomous people, it is even more true for those in a semi-autonomous situation, since access to support is practically non-existent, and workers are constantly dealing with crisis management. As for the people requiring continuous clinical follow-up, no attendant can substitute for adapted and adequate psychiatric care. Psychosis, toxic or not, is a major issue inside the Arena. The addition of security guards is not a viable solution for attending to these individuals, as they do not have the training required to defuse a crisis. This group of people requires a medical evaluation to refer the person to hospitalization, detoxification, psychiatric care, etc.

On the other hand, it is important to mention that some of the citizens sheltered mention feeling safer. What we are saying is that if we add security agents, it must be proportional to the addition of qualified workers.

2.4 Dangers to staff

All of the above factors create a climate of distrust of staff, who then serve as an outlet for the frustration of housed citizens. The threats and intimidation are constant. The lack of respect is blatant and the bond of trust is either fragile or broken. Throughout the interviews, we sensed this divide even greater with respect to the night staff. The anxiety is palpable. The current conditions are not conducive to professional fulfillment. It is difficult to take pride in a job when insults and threats are omnipresent. According to SPH staff, there is an increase in physical violence not only between the citizens housed, but also directed towards the workers and security agents. The presence of knives in the cubicles has also been raised by the intervention teams and the management of the SPH. This contributes to the general feeling of insecurity while increasing the risks of incidents, of which up to one per week occur. We are concerned about the health of the workers who are, nevertheless, very resilient.

What's more, this project, which was supposed to last a few months, has been in place for almost a year. Organized as a temporary service and inadequate for the "long term," the workers are constantly putting out fires and struggling to keep their heads above water. Continued uncertainty about relocation creates anxiety for both the housed citizens and the workers, as neither have control over the decision-making process.

2.5 Other comments from housed citizens

On several occasions, we heard comments such as: "I can't stand it any more," "I'll go crazy here." Some people mentioned the fear of losing their place once they are given limited access, the feeling of being abandoned, the impossibility of socializing, the care that is not adapted to their physical and mental health needs, the insufficient number of yellow containers to collect material from drug consumption that is abundant inside and outside the ARG, as well as a feeling of injustice with regard to certain interventions. With regard to the latter, some housed citizens mentioned a lesser tolerance of certain workers or security guards towards housed citizens with a non-heterosexual sexual orientation. However, there is no evidence that this is widespread: it is an isolated event or two. This may be an indicator of a weakened trust relationship, or simply that the contextual structure is not conducive to trust.

3. Further Analysis

What was intended to be temporary is increasingly becoming a permanent solution that is ill-suited to the situation. Whether it is the architecture of the premises or the inadequate or non-existent amenities inside the building, we are faced with an environment that hinders the right to human dignity, a right enshrined in the very preamble of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates in Article 1 that: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights [...]"

In November 2009, the Commission de la santé et des services sociaux sur l'itinérance au Québec (Health and Social Services Commission on Homelessness in Quebec) tabled a report in the National Assembly which stated that "reducing the risks associated with homelessness is not simply a matter of giving people a bed, food and clothing, but of giving them back the ability to break out of the impasse of a social emergency."[1] However, this approach requires an adapted and concerted intervention, which is not implemented in the current context, either because of a lack of staff, staff turnover or simply because of the mix of different categories of citizens housed in high density. The Commission emphasized that it was "essential that the public and community networks provide services in a continuous and harmonized manner, from the emergency situation to social reintegration [...]," while expressing concern "about its reduced capacity to deal with people with multiple problems."[2] This observation applies to the conditions prevailing at the Robert-Guertin Arena.

According to Michel Simard, "shelters and emergency accommodation [...] play a role analogous to medical emergencies in the health care system. In the same way that it is necessary to try as much as possible to relieve medical emergencies, it is necessary to relieve social emergencies."[3] The very dynamic of crowding a population inside the Arena, which is not structured in a way that helps them exit this environment, represents a glaring statement of failure in this regard.

This has the negative consequence that the manager is unable to fulfill his or her primary mandate, seeing himself or herself confined to a role of crisis management and imposing restrictive measures to maintain a minimally safe climate. The manager is thus faced with an untenable situation that does not allow him or her to create an environment conducive to front-line involvement aimed at directing sheltered citizens towards the necessary services or towards a way out of their extremely precarious conditions. These measures have the other pernicious effect of multiplying limited access, despite greater tolerance on the part of workers during cold weather, as the ultimate means of protection in order to ensure a safe work environment for employees. This access creates an overflow at the Drop-in service and taints its mission, since it ultimately welcomes people in crisis and great distress. Although the SPH staff is not in favour of limiting access, in the current structure, with the lack of staff and clinical support, this is the only means available to them to ensure a safe environment.

It is important to understand that there is no judgement about internal practice or management per se: it is not the organization's place to substitute for institutional expertise in mental health. And since there is a co-responsibility situation, with the city as owner, the Centre Intégré de Santé et de Services Sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO -- the Outaouais Health and Social Services Centre) as sponsor and SPH as manager, this requires independent coordination. The SPH administers an internal structure that comes to it virtually predefined and that it cannot change on its own. This is especially true considering that the Arena is also home to the Old Hull Drop-In Centre and given the proximity of the overdose prevention site and the Gîte Ami, a proximity that brings with it other organizational cultures, being managed by different autonomous and sovereign organizations. On this point, Simard states that "Public institutions have a central and essential role to play in creating this space of co-responsibility [...] because they have service mandates that only they can exercise."[4] If the CISSSO is involved in the service offer, and the city is involved in the location process, their involvement must be sufficient and adapted to the internal needs of the housed citizens and the manager.

In short, in this context of complex co-responsibility, where the community organization is not ultimately the decision-maker for what it administers, and where two authorities (the municipality and the CISSSO) with different mandates are involved, decision-making is difficult and changes are difficult. Ultimately, we insist that the Quebec government must be singled out for putting the various partners in an awkward situation and undermining the partnership necessary to overcome the crisis. Indeed, we deplore the inaction of Quebec, which had promised to take charge of the file, for its lack of direction, and its refusal of financing to support the projects.

4. Conclusion and Recommendations

We are not stating anything here that has not already been pointed out. The SPH had already produced a document of recommendations on emergency housing in September 2020. The authorities themselves recognized that, beyond the temporary vocation of the place, it was ill-suited to long-term needs. The multiplication of relocation and cohabitation committees supports this statement. Our recommendations are operational in a few possible scenarios. We will stick here to a logic of structure favouring the respect of fundamental rights and not one of formality in the field, the actors involved being able to propose the implementation of internal management measures.

4.1 Independent coordination

We suggest creating a management committee for all community services, which would be made up of the various partners, external observers and representatives of the housed citizens (see point 4.2). This committee will determine the role of each of the partners and will coordinate human and material resources while harmonizing practices and protocols to ensure that basic needs are met and that the primary mission of the project is respected. This new coordination will be able to decide on thorny issues on a democratic basis and will allow the partners to have an objective and global view of the daily situation, and thus ensure the smooth running of operations. This will also remove a moral burden from the project manager, while making the other partners responsible. It can ultimately act as a mediator if necessary.

4.2 Participatory approach

We advocate a participatory approach for housed citizens in their living environment. A committee of housed citizens is necessary to ensure that their voices and concerns are heard on a regular basis. The objective is to empower them, but above all to use their power to act and their potential in the decision-making process for their housing. This will also give managers a certain freedom to adapt their practices as needed, while reducing the accumulation of irritants experienced by the latter. It should be noted that a representative of the housed citizens' committees must sit on the independent coordination committee (see point 4.1) with the same decision-making power as the other committee members. Since the housed citizens are full citizens and the decisions directly affect their living environment, it is essential that they be an integral part of the solutions and their implementation. This has the double effect of making housed citizens more responsible and allowing them to move towards greater autonomy in order to one day hope to get out of their situation with support. However, we consider the current ARG location inadequate for this approach. This brings us to the next point. Finally, various workshops must be instituted and given by competent personnel, be it artistic, legal, job search or any other deemed relevant to create a healthy, dynamic and welcoming living environment in addition to providing them with tools that will serve them in their approach to improve their condition.

4.3 Relocation

4.3.1 In the same sector

Relocation is necessary in the same sector because of the proximity of community services, including the SPS [overdose prevention site]. However, two centres are recommended, one for semi-autonomous people and the other for people who need ongoing medical follow-up. In the first one, the community manager is recommended, while the second one should be taken in charge by public health with psychiatric services and a medical team, but without abandoning community support. For people in a situation of autonomy, since the evaluation for transitional housing is impossible at the Arena, we recommend their temporary relocation to a semi-autonomous environment in order to ensure a certain stability required to evaluate their needs.

4.3.2 Relocation to another sector with additional services

On another level, a relocation could also be considered in another area, as long as we divide the number of people in autonomous and semi-autonomous situations in two centres and add a second SPS. This will have the effect of reducing the impact of cohabitation in the chosen neighbourhood while improving the service offer in the neighbourhood.

4.3.3 Status quo

This is a non-alternative. If the status quo is preferred, it will require a major reconfiguration of the premises to ensure that the safety of the employees and the citizens housed there is paramount, that privacy is respected, and that there is effective separation for the different needs. Building anew is often easier than repairing the irreparable.

We share the concern of the manager of the Arena about the security of the premises. We conclude that the rights to dignity, safety and housing of the citizens housed there are not recognized under such conditions; that their chances of moving on under such conditions are compromised, if not non-existent; that such a situation in Quebec in 2021 is unacceptable; that temporary projects cannot become an alternative to development projects.

We call on the Quebec government to assume its responsibilities with respect to the human rights of all its citizens and to remedy the situation without delay.


1. Itinérance: Agissons ensemble, 2009, p.59 (Homelessness: Working Together).

2. Ibid, p. 38

3. L'itinérance dans les sociétés modernes contemporaines, M. Simard, 2016, p.140.

4. Ibid, p.140.

(Translated from original French by WF.)

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