Working and storing supplies out of a van has never been ideal for the Wolf Pack Street Patrol (WPSP), a non-profit organization that aims to provide support for people experiencing homelessness in Montreal.
But the team found a way to make it work. Even through a pandemic, they continued to patrol the streets of downtown Montreal through the darkness of the night.
The consistency of these steady acts of kindness and generosity is exactly what led the St. Jax Church community centre to offer a rent-free space for the WPSP. On Wednesday, March 17, after over two years without an official space, the WPSP took office in the St. Jax Church, located on Ste. Catherine street, at the corner of Bishop.
For WPSP, having a steady address means that the volunteers will achieve greater work while being able to cover more ground. The office will not only allow the team to store supplies and take breaks during their shifts, but also prepare meals for their clients.
When WPSP leader Al Harrington looks at the St. Jax kitchen, he sees a magnitude of possibility.
“We can do so much more now,” said Harrington. “It’s great to have our volunteers each week, cooking meals, organizing everything and bringing it to Montreal. But it was a huge organizational part for our two team leaders. Now, we’ll be able to do it ourselves!”
Along with an ally of the Kanehsata’kehró:non people, Samuel Lemay, Harrington started the organization three years ago, spurred by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls national inquiry. Both men wanted to help vulnerable Onkwehón:we people as they saw the situation deteriorating in Montreal.
“There is a major rise in the numbers regarding homelessness,” said Lemay as he addressed his last year of patrolling. “One thing I also see is that things seem to be tenser for the homeless population. Aggressivity is higher and we are seeing the damages of the drugs.”
The WPSP recently added a second night, every two weeks, to their weekly patrols. For Lemay, the St. Jax office will undeniably facilitate their work. He hopes that with this new location, WPSP will be able to train more volunteers in order to patrol more often.
“Especially because of the location, it’s right in the middle of our route,” he said. “It’s a foot down in the downtown area. It’s going to allow us to be more proactive.”
Harrington explained that working out of one member’s personal vehicle brought a lot of stress on the Pack.
“I felt very bad because we took his space, it’s where we store everything at the moment,” said Harrington. “I’m hoping that with this place in St. Jax, it takes some stress off our volunteers.”
Paul Bode, the Centre St. Jax operations manager, wanted to offer just that to WPSP. Bode explained that while the community centre hosts flashy events, he lives to be able to offer a space to groups that otherwise wouldn’t have access to such a place.
“We are in a unique position, we operate on what I like to call a “Robin Hood policy,” where we do high-end events, we do big corporate parties, concerts,” said Bode, explaining how they are raising enough money to then offer heavily discounted or free space for projects that have a positive impact in the community, such as WPSP.
Harrington’s goal is now to bring the nightly patrols to seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door