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Latest death at Gatineau homeless camp raises concerns over services

Tents can be seen behind police tape at the homeless encampment near Robert-Gertin Centre in Gatineau, Que., on Nov. 16, after a man was discovered dead inside his tent. Another man who'd been living there died Tuesday night. (Felix Desroches/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Tents can be seen behind police tape at the homeless encampment near Robert-Gertin Centre in Gatineau, Que., on Nov. 16, after a man was discovered dead inside his tent. Another man who'd been living there died Tuesday night. (Felix Desroches/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The death of another man at a homeless encampment near the Robert-Guertin Centre in Gatineau, Que., is heightening concerns over the adequacy of services for the region's homeless population, a local advocate says.

Gatineau police said officers arrived at the encampment at about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, after receiving reports of a man who'd been found unconscious. Paramedics transported the man to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police said the coroner will investigate, and said they can't release further information such as the man's identity or cause of death.

This is the second confirmed death at the encampment and the third involving a homeless person in Gatineau in recent weeks, according to authorities. On Nov. 16, 47-year-old Marc Jodoin was pronounced dead at the homeless encampment after he was discovered unresponsive in his tent.

Alexandre Gallant, co-ordinator for the Collectif régional de lutte à l'itinérance en Outaouais, a group that advocates for homeless people in the region, says services for that population are inadequate.

"We kind of expected that there would be other deaths, even if we didn't expect it to happen so much, so quickly," Gallant said in French.

"With the services that are being deployed at the moment, this will surely happen again, unfortunately."

Act quickly, advocate says

Gallant said the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO), the regional health and social services authority, is failing to meet the needs of homeless people.

"They prefer to stay outside than go to these places," said Gallant, who called the situation "frustrating" and called on CISSSO to "find solutions and act quickly."

Quebec's ministry responsible for social services said it was aware of the latest death at the Gatineau encampment, and a spokesperson for Minister Lionel Carmant said he's saddened by the situation.

The spokesperson said the provincial government continues to work to better support people experiencing homelessness.

"This is a difficult event both for the teams on the ground and for the people who were around this person," added CISSSO spokeperson Qeren Boua in an email.

CISSSO said it has deployed workers to provide support to those affected by the man's death.