Makivvik struggles to save vital Montreal refuge
Inuit make up about half of homeless aboriginal people
Nunavik’s Makivvik Corp. and other social service agencies in Montreal want to save a shelter for homeless aboriginal people in the city.
Projets Autochtones du Québec (Aboriginal projects of Quebec or PAQ) runs a not-for-profit centre and night shelter in downtown Montreal that has served the city’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis people since 2004.
But the night shelter may shut down at the end of June, if it can’t find a new place to set up shop.
About half the shelter’s 300 regular users are Inuit.
That has Makivvik concerned, said Donat Savoie, a former high-ranking federal civil servant who continues to advise Makivvik.
Makivvik is ready to help pay the salaries of Inuit workers at the shelter, Savoie said.
“But we can’t go ahead until we have a site in place,” he said. “We need a home first.”
The Montreal Health Authority owns the current PAQ centre and shelter site at 90 de la Gauchetière St. East, but the health and social services agency has plans to tear the existing building down and build new space for its own offices.
Because of this, the PAQ has been seeking a new location for more than a year now, without success.
The organization could get federal money to help pay for shelter space and services, but the group must first sign a five-year lease to get the money, Savoie said.
The shelter now includes 28 beds for men and nine for women.
The PAQ also provides assistance, referrals, medical check-ups, hot meals, showers, laundry services, and social activities for its clients.
Savoie called the PAQ shelter one of the only major organizations that helps Inuit men in Montreal.
And that’s important in the city, where Inuit are over-represented among homeless.
Inuit make up only about 10 per cent of aboriginal people living in the city, but account for 45 per cent of Montreal’s homeless aboriginal people, Savoie said in a report he prepared for Makivvik and the Quebec government in 2009.
That report spurred efforts made by Nunavik Inuit organizations to reach out to homeless Nunavimmiut living in Montreal and provide them with services in the city.
Makivvik came up with a partnership agreement with Chez Doris, a women’s day shelter, under which the organization funds an Inuit case worker position.