Chez Doris’ Elspeth McConnell overnight shelter was officially inaugurated Thursday morning, before the much-needed resource for homeless women opens Monday.
“It’s just been thought out in terms of what are the needs of the women,” said Marina Boulos-Winton, Chez Doris executive director.
Located across from Montreal’s only women’s day shelter on Chomedy Street, the renovated rowhouse features 24 beds. Each cubicle has its own ventilation, and electrical outlets. Pets will also be allowed.
“Overnight we see all different types of women that come, some intoxicated, some in a fight with their partner and aren’t feeling safe. So they need to be in a safe space,” said overnight case worker, Katreina Mace.
Women can stay in the shelter for up to 30 days, as long as they are working to overcome homelessness.
“We’ve created that in the hopes to give the women more stability, to find a place to work on herself and with the goal of being housed in the end,” said Mace.
The home was purchased thanks to a million-dollar donation from Andrew Harper after his death, and renovated with help from municipal and federal governments.
Boulous-Winton says the needs of vulnerable women are growing amid the ongoing housing crisis and pandemic. The organization predicts there are more than 1,600 homeless women in Montreal.
“We saw a huge surge at the beginning of the pandemic and especially when there’s a curfew,” she told Global News.
During the pandemic the day shelter temporarily opened to 40 women overnight. Boulous-Winton says the brand-new shelter is already too small.
“We’ve noticed that already the shelter that we have is too small because we … already we went from accommodating 40 women a night to 24,” she said.
Chez Doris hopes to expand even more by purchasing the Fulford Residence on Guy Street.
In the meantime, the organization will open a new permanent residence for women offering affordable rental units in 2023.
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