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AJOI determined to open West Island homeless shelter

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West Island homeless shelter – Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’île (AJOI) is an organization determined to help young adults ages 18 to 35 in need of assistance – people who live in the shadows of our society, often unseen, struggling on a day-to-day basis just to get by. AJOI’s mission is to establish and maintain outreach intervention services for youth at risk or in difficulty in the West Island. They are unwavering in their goal to open a homeless shelter to help them – and they need the community behind them.

People have suggested these young adults should simply be taken to shelters in downtown Montreal, but the growing number of young people from the West Island don’t want to be taken there, Tania Charron, (Executive Director of AJOI) explained to me, they are afraid and do not want to be uprooted from the area they have always lived in and known and so refuse to go. They end up sleeping in cars or couch surfing at the homes of friends until exhausting all of their options and then waiting and hoping an outreach worker manages to find them a temporary room for the night. Many of these young adults want a better life for themselves, they don’t want to be living on the streets or sleeping in conditions that put them further at risk. “How can they go to school or hold down a job when they do not know where they are going to sleep and if they are going to eat?” Tania said.

Although the West Island is considered to have advantageous living conditions, the area ‘hides a reality where 17,525 young people, 18% of young people from 0 to 34 years, are living in areas of social and material deprivation’. And that’s where ‘Ricochet’ comes in. AJOI created Ricochet (Hébergement / Homes) in 2017, ‘the first non-profit organization whose mission is to develop housing resources for young adults living in situations of residential instability in the West Island’. Through Ricochet they have been raising funds for a project that would see them in partnership with Residence Bienvenue, a non-profit rehab center located in Pierrefonds, the Accès-Logis program of the SHQ and the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île, towards the construction of a new 32 unit building – where they would share the units with Residence Bienvenue and have 16 units of transitional social housing of their own offering: Personalized psychosocial support, Support and supervision throughout the process, Support to community life, Interim free or low-cost services for food or clothing, A referral and support service and Assistance in transition to long-term housing.

Right now they are going through the long drawn out process of obtaining grants for the project, from municipal to provincial levels of government. Some funding has been secured for different areas like an Outreach Worker, but more importantly they are in the process of working with the Société d’habitation du Québec on a $3.6 million grant for the actual construction of the building, literally the foundation of the project and they are hopeful it will come through. But more funding will be needed in areas like Administration and for Emergency Intervention and Social Workers – and that is where you can help. There are several ways to donate to this initiative. Go to their website to find out how – or even participate in one of their fundraising events. To find out more call 514-675-4450 go to: www.ajoi.info/donate

By: Bonnie Wurst – info@mtltimes.ca

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