Hundreds of homeless people Quebec City will lose a haven in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood next Friday.
The Local, a shelter in the basement of the Saint-Roch Catholic Church, will close after the parish of Sainte-Marie-de-l'Incarnation chose not to renew its lease at the end of June.
The shelter has helped 450 people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless in the past year. Since opening in December 2020, it recorded nearly 57,000 visits and says it served about 30,000 meals and snacks.
The decision to not renew the lease wasn't an easy one to make, says priest Michel Drouin.
But he said the church basement wasn't equipped to service that many people in situations of homelessness, and that the use of the space was always meant to be temporary.
So far, the city hasn't announced concrete plans to address the closure.
"We are hard at work to find solutions so that these people can have services," said municipal councillor, Catherine Vallières-Roland.
François Lebel, president of the Saint-Roch merchants' association, the Société de développement commercial (SDC) Saint-Roch, criticized the city's lack of commitment.
"A room can be set up when you have the will and the money," Lebel said. "We put $400 million into an amphitheatre and $3 million into parking terminals that are useless. I think we could put in a couple of $100,000 for homeless people."
The CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale says it will add four intervention workers to meet the growing need for support. For their part, the Quebec City police (SPVQ) say they will carry out pedestrian patrols in Saint-Roch every day.
Patrick Russo, co-owner of the Birra Basta, a restaurant on Saint-Joseph Street East, says people experiencing homelessness need adapted support and services, particularly those suffering from mental health problems.
"They need to be taken care of," he said. "It's a very vibrant street, where there's a lot of movement at night, so we want to make sure that it's a safe space for our customers and for the sector."