The JGH extends a helping hand to the homeless

At the security desk in the JGH’s Légaré Street lobby, Joseph Nshimirimana (second from left), JGH day shift Security Supervisor, and Denis Brochet, (third from left), CIUSSS Chief of Global Security, speak to members of the MultiCaf mobile homelessness unit, Anaclet Kapome Danga (at left) and Louis Lovensky.
At the security desk in the JGH’s Légaré Street lobby, Joseph Nshimirimana (second from left), JGH day shift Security Supervisor, and Denis Brochet, (third from left), CIUSSS Chief of Global Security, speak to members of the MultiCaf mobile homelessness unit, Anaclet Kapome Danga (at left) and Louis Lovensky.

Our CIUSSS partners with community group to assist those who seek refuge inside the hospital

One evening recently, a man was sitting outside the JGH Emergency Department in the cold, surrounded by his belongings. He had no home, no companions and no place to go—but he did have a guardian angel who was about to help him.

Louis Lovensky and Anaclet Kapome Danga, community outreach workers with the MultiCaf mobile homelessness unit, with some food items that they offer to people experiencing homelessness in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
Louis Lovensky and Anaclet Kapome Danga, community outreach workers with the MultiCaf mobile homelessness unit, with some food items that they offer to people experiencing homelessness in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Anaclet Kapome Danga, a community outreach worker, approached the man and asked some questions: Did he want a sandwich? A drink? A place to sleep? At the man’s request, Mr. Kapome Danga gave him a bottle of juice and a taxi coupon to get to a friend’s house. Instead of a ticket or a trip to the police station, the man got a helping hand.

This exchange was part of a novel arrangement between CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and the MultiCaf community organization in Côte-des-Neiges. Faced with an increase in unhoused people taking shelter both within and around its installations, the JGH has sought out solutions that favour compassion and support, not repression.

“There are people experiencing hardships who turn to us. We want to help them,” says Denis Brochet, Chief of Global Security at our CIUSSS.

The agreement with MultiCaf, arranged through the CIUSSS’s Frontline Services Directorate, has resulted in an approach that is described as unique in Montreal. Teams of community workers like Mr. Kapome Danga respond to calls and criss-cross the district of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, reaching out to homeless individuals and offering them social support.

“We want to intervene in a way that’s in line with our role as a healthcare institution—by supporting people, not just making them leave.”

Denis Brochet, Chief of Global Security

Like the rest of Montreal, the district is witnessing a rise in homelessness. The MultiCaf team is called in regularly to intervene in public places where people experiencing homelessness take shelter, from city libraries to shopping centres, fast-food outlets to the Saint Joseph’s Oratory.

Poster distributed throughout Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, publicizing the services of MultiCaf’s mobile homelessness unit, the Unité mobile multisectorielle visant l'itinérance.
Poster distributed throughout Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, publicizing the services of MultiCaf’s mobile homelessness unit, the Unité mobile multisectorielle visant l’itinérance.

MultiCaf has publicized its new service—the Unité mobile multisectorielle visant l’itinérance—and responds to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The goal is to enhance “social cohabitation” with the wider community and seek out solutions for the person who’s unhoused.

“The point isn’t to move the person away, but to take care of them,” says Jean-Sébastien Patrice, Executive Director of MultiCaf. “We take a human approach. We tell them: ‘We’re here for you. What can we do to respond to your needs?’”

That can mean offering a meal, a place to warm up, immediate medical help or a lift to an overnight downtown shelter. The team then checks up on people the following day to steer them toward resources that could help in the longer-term, including our CIUSSS’s Connexion team from Frontline Services.

“We’re not in repression mode, we’re in accompaniment mode,” Mr. Patrice explains.

By partnering with our CIUSSS, MultiCaf is adding a layer of support for JGH security officers who come across homeless people sleeping or walking around the hospital, some of them with mental health or addiction problems. From mid-September to late November, MultiCaf employees intervened at the JGH 22 times, directing homeless individuals to appropriate resources.

Catherine Roberge, Program Manager for Addiction and Homelessness for our CIUSSS, says this partnership underscores the value of community teamwork. “Our security teams at the Jewish General know they have teammates who can help them out,” she says.

“Ultimately, you can’t be on your own to address an issue like homelessness. There’s strength in finding partnerships.”

Catherine Roberge, Program Manager for Addiction and Homelessness

And if the arrangement results in someone getting off the streets and into stable housing and care, the effort will be worthwhile, says Mr. Brochet. “We won’t change the world,” he says, “but if we can help just one person by offering them alternatives and solutions, I’d be satisfied.”