West Island Crisis Centre shuts down for holidays for first time in 30 years due to labour shortage

·2 min read
Tarawat Per, a crisis intervention worker at the West Island Crisis Centre, says the centre has been short on staff for months, meaning employees are working double shifts to keep the place running.  (Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC - image credit)
Tarawat Per, a crisis intervention worker at the West Island Crisis Centre, says the centre has been short on staff for months, meaning employees are working double shifts to keep the place running. (Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC - image credit)

Tarawat Per spends her days staffing the desk at the West Island Crisis Centre, handling emergencies and people needing short-term housing.

But she says during the pandemic, that burden has gotten heavier.

"We were short-staffed for the past few months, so the workers that stayed were overworked," said Per, a crisis intervention worker. "We have to do double shifts sometimes."

And as the pandemic dragged on, that workload increased.

"There's a lot more tasks that we have to do, the disinfection and all that, that we had to add during our rounds," said Karen Garon, another crisis intervention worker at the organization.

The centre has offered around-the-clock service, seven days a week since it opened more than 30 years ago, fielding about 1,500 calls per month.

But with staff in desperate need of a break, the centre is shutting down for the holidays and not reopening until Jan. 3.

Serving the West Island since 1987

The centre was founded in 1987, covering areas like Pierrefonds—Roxboro, L'Île-Bizard—Sainte-Geneviève, Senneville, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Dollard-des-Ormeaux and more.

Its mission is to "meet the needs of adults experiencing a situational crisis, emotional distress, suicidal or otherwise. As well as to bring support to the loved ones of those in crisis," the centre says on its website.

Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC
Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC

The organization works in partnership with the West Island's public health agency, CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.

Now with its 24/7 service shutting down for the holidays, the centre is redirecting repeat clients to other services.

"Is it going to hurt? Yes. We hope that nothing serious comes up. We hope that they will be able to get help," said Deborah St-Martin, chair of the centre's board of directors.

The local health agency shares that concern.

CIUSSS says people can still seek help

In a statement, the regional public health agency says this holiday season won't be easy on people's mental health.

It says anyone needing help can contact the psychosocial offices of its CLSCs.

Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC
Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC

Regardless, Per said the closure points to a bigger issue.

"Unfortunately, I know that we're not the only community resource that is facing these types of problems. I've heard there are more," she said.

The hope is that employees return from the break energized, ready to tackle any crisis coming their way.

But management says, until they are able to bring in more workers, the future of the centre and the services they offer is uncertain.

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