Montreal police say the Quebec medical examiner is investigating after a 74-year-old Montreal man experiencing homelessness was found dead under an extreme cold.
SPVM said they received a call around 6 p.m. 18 Monday, who said a person living in a makeshift camp was ill near a crossing at Saint-Jacques Street and Highway 20 in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
When the first aiders were on the scene, they confirmed that the man was dead.
Montreal went into a deep frost Monday night, with temperatures dropping to -26 C. Tuesday morning it felt like -35 C with wind cooling.
Montreal’s homeless organizations say they have been crack under pressure of the Omicron wave of COVID-19, which has reduced capacity in many accommodations.
James Hughes, president and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission shelter, says that if more resources had been available, there is a chance the man’s death could have been avoided.
“You can not help but ask yourself that question: If we had more resources, more street teams, could we then have made sure this person had the opportunity to get inside last night?”
A few hours before the man was found, dr. Horacio Arruda, som announced his resignation as Quebec’s director of public health on Monday urged homeless shelters to disregard pandemic-related capacity limits and reopen fully over the next few nights.
Hughes says receiving the public health announcement Monday night was encouraging, but says it will be difficult for workers and organizations to implement the rule as they try to reconcile two competing challenges: the pandemic and the cold.
“It’s a very difficult call to make, but in the end, what’s more dangerous?” he said. “We know from the gentleman who perished outside the NDG what the dangers of being outside are.”
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During a news conference Tuesday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the 74-year-old man’s death was “unacceptable,” adding she was devastated by the news.
“That’s not what we want,” she said, “no one should be in the cold right now.”
Plant maintains that there was enough space all over the city to ensure that no one spent the night outdoors.
The mayor said Montreal police were aware of the man who died and that he had been camping in the NDG area for more than 10 years and “refused to go to existing resources.”
Nevertheless, Plante announced a plan to strengthen these resources.
The city of Montreal has already requisitioned the Chrome Hotel in the center to be used by the homeless population for self-insulation, but that building has already reached its maximum capacity.
Now there are even more seats on the way Montreal Football Stadium in the Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension district.
Up to 320 beds for homeless people who have tested positive for the virus will be available at the football facility in the coming days, Mayor Valérie Plante announced on Tuesday.
However, the mayor also pointed out that finding staff to work with people experiencing homelessness is a major challenge.
“The challenge for the city of Montreal is not to find places, not to find places, it’s actually to find the right people to work with these communities,” she said.
According to Montreal Public Health, 216 homeless people from Monday tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.