Montreal's annual Night of the Homeless aims to raise awareness, help those in need

Hundreds of Montrealers took part in a march aimed at raising awareness about the city's homeless population, Friday night.

The event, called Night of the Homeless, ended at Cabot Square and included speeches from elected officials and advocates.

Johanne Cooper started working with the Maison Tangente shelter 30 years ago. Now, she serves as its director.

"When I started, I said, 'I hope one day, I have no more job,'" she said.

Cooper helped start the annual Night of the Homeless 29 years ago.

Activities during the Night of the Homeless include providing winter clothing and haircuts for homeless people.

"You can go very fast to living on the street, or in a shelter. Nobody can say, 'Oh, it's never going to happen to me,'" said Cooper.


Not limited to downtown

A 2015 estimation of the number of Montrealers living on the street counted more than 3,000 homeless people in the city.

The mayor of Lachine, Maja Vodanovic, said although parts of her borough are being developed, there are still pockets of poverty in the area.

Lachine is a borough in the west end of Montreal, a healthy distance away from the downtown.

She said she's aware of a handful of cases of homelessness and precarious housing in her community.

"My residents were saying, 'Well, what are we going to do about it? How can you help them?'," she said.

Vodanovic said building more affordable housing is a part of the solution, and a priority for Mayor Valérie Plante's administration.

With files from the CBC's Matt D'Amours