As Montreal's contract with a downtown hotel that offered homeless people rooms throughout the pandemic ends, the city's oldest (and now former) hospital will become a 24-hour shelter.
The Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal was the first hospital established in Montreal. Located on St-Urbain street, it is no longer a hospital, but it is still home to outpatient clinics and administrative offices for Montreal's French-language superhospital (CHUM).
During the pandemic, it became one of several specialized clinics in Quebec treating COVID-19 patients.
The former hospital will have at least 100 beds, with a capacity of 200 if needed, according to health officials who led reporters on a tour Wednesday.
"This is going to be a place of dignity and a place of humanity," James Hughes, the president of the Old Brewery Mission, told reporters.
The Old Brewery Mission and Welcome Hall Mission partnered with one of the Montreal health boards, the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, and the CHUM superhospital to set up the shelter.
The shelter will open Thursday, about three weeks after dozens of homeless people were told to find a new shelter because emergency accommodations in Place Dupuis — another temporary shelter in a downtown hotel — would close at the end of June.
The contract between Montreal and the hotel led to the creation of 250 emergency places to shelter homeless people through the winter.
The shelter in Hôtel-Dieu will span four floors in the building's Le Royer pavillon. There are 25 rooms on each floor and each has two beds with a private bathroom.
Objective is to find housing for residents
Residents will be able to leave their belongings in the room they are staying in, and meals and snacks will be provided.
The goal is to help residents find long-term housing by connecting them to rent subsidies and other programs to find housing, as rents in the city rise.
"To really get to work with such complex people with such complex journeys and challenges, we need to work with them during the day and make sure they have stability in the night. It's only in this kind of environment we can do it," Hughes said.
The city has estimated that the homeless population in Montreal has more than doubled during the pandemic.
"More people are coming in than getting out at the present time," Hughes said. "We want to help people get out. It's not our journey out, it's their journey out."
Staff from the Old Brewery Mission will be providing services during the day and workers from the Welcome Hall Mission will be there overnight.
The contract between the health board, which will provide funding for the project, and the other organizations is set to last until at least March 2022.
"The people that come here, they have a place to sleep during the night and after that, they are accompanied by the organizations," said Caroline Dusablon, who oversees urban partnerships at the CIUSSS.
"The aim is really that these people have their own apartment one day."
Those who have been staying at Place Dupuis and would like to move to the Hôtel-Dieu shelter can take a shuttle bus between the two locations Thursday.