City rallies to help the homeless in Cabot Square

Montreal’s Nakuset shares a moment beside the Cabot statue in Montreal’s Cabot Square

Barely a day after Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced that the city was already working on a plan to help the city’s homeless, workers began to install tents and assorted sanitary facilities in and around Cabot Square near the downtown core.

“Don’t get me wrong, because we’re grateful for all the help we can get,” said Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. “But it’s not enough! These people have got to be tested, and they’ve got to be tested now.” Nakuset should know. She spends her time saving those who may be our most vulnerable. Poor, homeless indigenous Montrealers She’s frontline on the toughest battlefield in the city.Cabot Square, where most of them tend to congregate.

During last week’s Thursday afternoon press conference, Montreal’s Dr. Drouin joined City Mayor Valérie Plante during which she told the media that medical authorities are “...very concerned,” about the city’s homeless who are left “...all the more vulnerable,” and subject to further illness on the street. As the head of the city’s emergency medical services, Drouin went on to mention that researchers in the city’s health department are already having trouble contacting people who tested positive following their visit to the city’s busy walk-in clinic that’s located near the Place Des Arts Metro station.

“How can you tell someone to isolate themselves at home when they don’t have a home,” said Drouin. “How can you get in touch with them when they don’t have a phone?”

As the city’s shelters can no longer provide safe and secure beds in one of their dormitories, Nakuset told The Suburban that the homeless have nowhere to go , and that many now sleep in the city’s parks or the metro. As both health and basic hygiene have become an issue, Mayor Plante announced that the city will immediately build up to five reception centres where the homeless can easily receive the services – including food and shelter – they will need to make it through the next few weeks on the street.

“We’re doing everything we can to avoid having a major health crisis turn into a serious humanitarian crisis,” said the mayor.

To that end, Nakuset is grateful, “...but the city has to do more...a lot more.”

While walking through the Square, she told The Suburban that the city must send doctors or a nurse to test people on site because “...it’s just too complicated,” for many of her clients to know exactly what’s going on with the virus and how it could affect them.

“It’s too far to walk, the weather’s lousy, and once they get to the site, they see lots of police, lots of people in uniforms, and that’s just enough to make them decide to walk away.”

As the virus is known to have an R³ (reproduction) factor – a designation that means its host will (probably) infect between 3 to 4 people before they begin to show symptoms, Nakuset admits that the situation in Cabot Square is getting serious.

“The city has to send someone down here to see these people,” she said. “And if they’re sick, we have to find someplace where they can be kept away from everybody else.” While she appreciates what the city has done over the past two days, “...they still need a doctor, because for a lot of these people, a cough and a sore throat doesn’t mean much when you’re living on the street.”

For others, it could mean the difference between life and death.

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