Old Brewery Mission’s new hotel conversion project will help house homeless people
Corporate partner Allstate Canada will match public donations June 13-30 to help furnish the building’s apartments
Author of the article:
Mark Stachiew • Postmedia Content Works
Jun 13, 2022 • 16 hours ago • 4 minute read
Old Brewery Mission clients can do many activities, such as starting a garden. PHOTO BY OLD BREWERY MISSION
When the Au Pied de la Montagne apartment building opens at the corner of Park and Mont-Royal this November, 24 formerly homeless men will have apartments to call their own thanks to a hotel conversion project spearheaded by the Old Brewery Mission.
“This is 24 solutions to homelessness and over time — because people don’t stay forever — we will see hundreds of people coming in and out of that facility and into better and more autonomous lives afterwards,” said Old Brewery Mission CEO and president James Hughes.
Much of the $8-million price tag for the building’s renovation came from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative and the provincial government will provide rent supplements to cover some of its ongoing operating costs, but Hughes says more money is needed to help finish the project.
Some of it is coming from donations from ordinary Montrealers who support the OBM’s mission to eradicate homelessness in the city, but also from corporate partners like Allstate Canada, which has supported the charity for eight years.
Between June 13 and 30, Allstate will match donations from the public to the Old Brewery Mission, up to $10,000, to help furnish each of the building’s 24 studio apartments with new beds, mattresses and linens.
“Homelessness in Montreal should not really exist,” said Allstate spokesperson Patrizia D’Ignazio. “We strongly believe in the Old Brewery Mission’s vision because it aligns with Allstate’s corporate social responsibility strategy for fostering an environment of inclusion, involvement and empowerment especially for people who are experiencing financial hardships. It also connects with our broader focus of prevention and protection, which is what Allstate is all about.”
D’Ignazio invited Montrealers to visit the Old Brewery Mission donation page to make a contribution to the OBM that Allstate will match.
While the Old Brewery Mission is well known throughout Montreal for its emergency shelters, projects like Au Pied de la Montagne are part of their evolution into a housing-focused organization committed to providing affordable, permanent housing units across the city in order to get people off the streets, said Hughes.
The OBM currently has access to more than 300 affordable housing units in neighbourhoods like Montreal North, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and N.D.G. that it uses to help people transition from being homeless to being permanently housed. These units are either owned and by the Mission or exist through partnerships with private landlords.
One of the most important aspects to the transition out of homelessness is having OBM staff there to help their clients attain a more stable lifestyle.
A resident enjoying his new life in an Old Brewery Mission apartment building. PHOTO BY OLD BREWERY MISSION
“We have people there who understand the journeys these folks have been on and help them negotiate their way into the rhythms of a more normalized life,” said Hughes. “They help them with neighbours, help them with getting their place set up, help them with hydro bills, help them with everything that they need to do to get really established. This is the most exciting part of our vocation. We’d rather that they be there than be in a shelter.”
Hughes said the rising price of real estate in Montreal has contributed to a lack of affordable housing, which is fuelling a rise in the city’s homeless population.
Street counts the OBM undertook in 2015 and 2018 showed the numbers of homeless were on the rise. They estimated that there were 3,000 people living on the streets of Montreal on any given night, but Hughes said the real number today is likely to have increased significantly.
“COVID has done us no favours when it comes to the housing markets,” said Hughes. “Homelessness in Montreal, and really right across Canada, and North America, is going in the wrong direction.”
The OBM president suggested that better government regulations around renovictions, short-term rentals and the financialization of housing could be part of the solution.
“So much affordable housing is being gobbled up by large housing developers and investment companies, among others, and they are trying to turn housing into an asset as opposed to a home,” said Hughes. “A home has to be treated as a right. We’re starting to forget that housing is the basis for the exercise of all other rights and needs to have more protection than it has today.”
Hughes said that ordinary Montrealers can help by donating to the Old Brewery Mission who they rely on every year to fund their emergency services, housing teams and housing projects.
“Any amount is helpful: 10 dollars, 100 dollars, a couple of hundred just makes a world of difference when it’s multiplied by many people. It’s what makes organizations like ours tick.”
For more information, visit the Old Brewery Mission donation page