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Old Brewery Mission – Montreals line of defence for the homeless

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Old Brewery Mission – As winter weather sets in, a homeless shelter in Old Montreal goes into high gear. At the Old Brewery Mission (OBM), Winter protocol begins December 1st, and sees a ramping up of emergency services. Extra beds are made available and a shuttle service plies downtown streets,  inviting the homeless aboard to warm up and have safe ride to resources. The idea is that nobody should left out in cold.

Old Brewery client Gaston

The winter months are a particularly difficult time of year for our clients and can be especially challenging for our staff. But year after year, our hearts are warmed by the generosity and compassion of the many Montrealers who donate and help us serve thousands of meals to homeless men and women,” explains Matthew Pearce, director of the OBM.

A traditional shelter offers dinner, bed, and breakfast, then forces clients to leave for the day. While OBM used to function this way, it now offers clients a personal locker, lets them stay inside all day, and features coffee house where clients can simply “hang out”.

Nobody is turned away, especially on cold winter nights. OBM also works with other charities: Accueil Bonneau; la Maison du Père; Welcome Hall Mission;, the Salvation Army, etc, ensuring there is a place for everyone and that the client’s’ basic needs are met.

Mission shuttle bus and car
Old Brewery Mission winter street view

OBM offers 313 housing units across Montreal, including a men’s pavilion on Clark Street and the Patricia Mackenzie women’s Pavilion. Apart from specifically addressing homeless women’s needs, OBM now also has special programs for homeless elderly and, as previously reported, for homeless military veterans.

Expanded operations are also part of the plan at OBM, “This year sees increased hours with our shuttle bus, operating from 2pm – 9am weekdays and from 8pm – 9am on weekends,” says communications director Mélissa Bellerose. She speaks of encouraging homeless people sleeping at Bonaventure metro to come to better accommodations. And there is a change in approach toward the homeless.

A certain percentage of our clientele are chronically homeless, perhaps up to 10%. Much of their lifetime has been on the street and they have grown accustomed to it. Now they can have a coffee, build relationships,and  take part in programs; there is a lot going on,” continues Bellerose.

The new approach involves getting the names of all clients and adopting a hands-on, personal approach. This is more demanding on staff; requiring more teamwork. It is more intensive, but it’s also working. After perhaps six weeks, some of the chronically homeless are leaving us for a stable housing environment. But it’s a laborious process.”  

A generous community is what makes the OBM tick; while governments support its work, almost 60% of OM funding comes from individual and corporate donations. And many donations-in-kind are also received. Willingdon Elementary School in NDG recently collected socks for OBM clients and made 500 holiday cards to be distributed to them.

Old Brewery Mission winter street view

I think we have served over 30,000 meals in November. This is partly because of our extended hours, but also increased need. There are a lot of people who need our help,” notes Bellerose.

Mission shuttle bus and car

OBM provides about 235,000 meals annually for the homeless; gives 4,259 safe rides; donates 53,000 articles of clothing; and does 4,447 individual home visits to ensure successful integration of former homeless people into their new lives. The charity can issue tax receipts. For more information, call: 514.788.1884 or email: fondation@missionoldbrewery.ca

By: John Symon – info@mtltimes.ca

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