MONTREAL – A group of community organizations denounces the police dismantling of the tent city on Notre-Dame Street, which at one time had more than 150 people living there.
“What happened yesterday was a complete shame, it shouldn’t have happened,” said Sandra Wesley, executive director of Chez Stella, a non-profit organization by and for sex workers.
Montreal police and the fire department dismantled the camp on Monday after the city’s fire chief ordered an emergency evacuation of the camp on Sunday following a weekend fire.
The group of community organizations representing marginalized members of society is angry at the level of aggression they say the Montreal police have shown in ordering occupants of the tent city to vacate the spaces they claim. occupied for several months.
Police officers in riot gear and on horseback, as well as police helicopters, were used in the operation. According to community groups, mental health professionals who were working with the occupants of the tent city were not allowed to be present during the dismantling.
Police said on Monday that residents can move to the local YMCA or Place Dupuis shelter, which is overseen by Mission Bon Accueil.
Wesley is worried about the former occupants.
“Their community has disappeared, its food sources have disappeared, its heat source has disappeared even its toilets have disappeared. During COVID, there is nowhere to go during the day, ”she said.
“We are particularly worried about women,” she adds. “Situations like this, where stability is destroyed, where a community is destroyed … when everyone is dispersed – we don’t feel like we know where everyone is and it’s a special time. so that women disappear. “
Community organizations had requested the installation of electricity and other basic services to make the camp safer, but these requests were rejected. Wesley says the occupants were living to the best of their ability under difficult circumstances.
“Poverty is messy. Poverty is difficult. Poverty is a struggle and when we are in this situation we do what we need to do to survive. And we’re doing what’s best for us. So we have to start by believing that if people decide to stay in a tent near the freeway and have potentially dangerous materials to warm up to, this is the best they have at the time.
She adds that dismantling the tent city will not solve homelessness in the city.
“There is this desire to make poverty invisible. Putting people out of the public eye will not feed them or lift them out of poverty, ”she said.