It is not an easy situation for everyone involved, but after a fire broke out at the homeless ‘tent city’ located on Notre-Dame Street (near the Old Port) on Saturday December 5th, Montreal’s fire department ordered the immediate evacuation of the site. On Monday, the police were called in to assist the fire department in dismantling what is known as the largest camp in the city. According to reports, the fire almost almost ignited a propane tank and the potential explosion could not only have endangered the occupants of the camp, but the residents in the area as well. As it was, one tent was completely destroyed by the fire and some other tents received minor damages – and it was not the first time a fire broke out there.
Montreal police in cars, on bicycles and on horseback were seen at the site, owned by the Quebec government, as early as 6:00am. Many of those who have been staying there do not want to leave, even if just for the winter – when below zero temperatures and storms can be life threatening. There are beds available for them right now at the Hotel Place Dupuis as well as other shelters in place, including at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Guy-Favreau Complex, the former YMCA Hochelaga and more. However, most do not want to go there for various reasons, with some citing the pandemic and fear of being infected with the Covid-19 virus. It is understandable.
Homelessness is not a situation anyone would really want to find himself or herself in – especially during the winter season. Nevertheless, some people are unable to afford housing or they have emotional challenges, drug or alcohol addictions or just plain down and out with bad luck. In 2018, there were approximately 3,100 people who were homeless in the city – and since the start of the pandemic, it is estimated to have doubled. The fire at the camp left officials with little choice but to take it down.