Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’île (AJOI) is an organization that helps young adults ages 18 to 35 in need of assistance in the West Island. Although the area is considered to have good living conditions, there was estimated to be over 17,500 youth and homeless people living in ‘social and material deprivation’ according to AJOI in February of 2019. With the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and people in isolation, it has become an even harsher reality for them. One of the issues they are facing is access to sanitation facilities – and AJOI decided to do something about it. In a Press Release, they announced that after a three-week struggle, they finally got confirmation on April 28th that chemical toilets will be installed in the West Island. The news comes after they denounced the lack of sanitation facilities for homeless people in the area. While chemical toilets with sinks had been installed downtown and in outlying areas like Lachine and Hochelaga, the West Island was ‘slow to obtain the same services’.
In recent weeks, AJOI has seen an increase in the volume of calls concerning the problem of homelessness. They have not been able to refer them to resources outside Montreal (because of restrictions related to social and health regionalization). During this time, there has been a ‘general worsening of living conditions for people in a situation of visible and invisible homelessness: makeshift camps, living in sheds and solariums, no access to bathrooms’ and more. They identified five places where the situation had become so problematic that they could be described as ‘open toilets’. But thanks to the joint work of AJOI, the Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes à Montréal (RAPSIM), the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île, Benoit Langevin, City councilor in Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Spokesperson in the shadow cabinet for Homelessness and youth, and the City of Montreal – people experiencing homelessness in the West Island will now have access to chemical toilets with washbasins. As they state in their release, they consider it ‘a minimum in this time of pandemic where, let’s remember, not everyone fights on equal terms against an invisible enemy’.