Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Portrait of north-coastal itinerants who are not part of Quebec's official count.

Sleeping in the streets of Sept-Îles in winter

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Whether with friends, in lobbies or in abandoned buildings, North Coast residents find shelter where they can.

  • Charles-Étienne Drouin (View profile)Charles-Étienne Drouin
  • Michèle Bouchard (View profile)Michèle Bouchard

On the North Shore, 94 people live in a situation of homelessness, according to a count published last September by Quebec. However, organizations that intervene to support homeless people estimate that there are many more of them. Meeting two people who are not part of the count.

Jackie Riverain Imbeault is one of the less and less hidden faces of the homeless on the North Shore.

The 27-year-old young woman n& #x27;has not had a home in Sept-Îles for about three months. It was when she encountered a Radio-Canada journalist in the street in mid-December that she decided to tell her story.

I want to speak to the media because I know I'm not the only one in this situation, she says.

It doesn't seem like it, but there are really a lot of people [in the street]. I would like them to get through it. People have their eyes closed and don't want to see it.

A quote from Jackie Riverain Imbeault

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If homelessness in the regions is underestimated, it is because ;it is often barely visible to passers-by. Invisible homelessness is impossible to quantify.

Homelessness on the North Shore is hidden. You have a lot of people who will be in blocks of apartments, who will be with friends. There are some who go into the forest, who make small camps, explains Alexandre Dumas, psychosocial worker at Transit Sept-Îles, a temporary accommodation house.

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Jackie Riverain-Imbeault continues to go to school despite her difficult situation.

To warm up during the long cold nights on the North Shore, Jackie Riverain Imbeault and her friend try as best they can to find shelter.

I live with friends. When there is no one who can take us, we go to the block entrances. It's boring. We get singled out if we don't get thrown out, she says.

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The air is freezing, but this place, which is not known to the public, allows Jackie Riverain-Imbeault to avoid being disturbed by the police.

She considers that finding a place to sleep with her boyfriend is not easy.

Not everyone accepts couples. One person is less disturbing than two, as they say. But what we're looking for is only a place to sleep and wash in the evening, says Jackie Riverain Imbeault.

She tried to find shelter at Transit Sept-Îles, where 12 beds await people in need, but places fill up quickly.

If I call during during the day, Transit tells us to call back in the evening at 9 p.m. But in the evening at 9 p.m., I’m in bed and sleeping!, she exclaims, laughing.

Meeting homeless people on the North Shore who are not part of Quebec's official count.

At 64, Pierre Bacon has also been on the street for almost three months. It was near a supermarket in Sept-Îles, on a Wednesday evening, that he met Radio-Canada for an interview.

Like several other evenings, the man who previously worked as a lumberjack in Rivière-Pentecôte asks for alms on the sidewalks of Sept-Îles. This practice seems to be working.

The citizens of Sept-Îles help me more than the government. I would like the new mayor of Sept-Îles to act. If it wasn’t for the [generosity] of people, I would be in trouble. The money helps me eat and house myself from time to time, he says.

We are a gang of itinerants who collect money. We go grocery shopping and get dressed together.

However, he is able to pay rent at a reasonable price. Before he was evicted for renovations, he was paying about $800 a month for housing. But it is now difficult to find such rent, he explains.

There is none, accommodation at the bottom of 800 dollars, says Pierre Bacon.

My block was sold to another. Then, they undid the entire block without telling me, that day, that they were undoing it. I lost everything in my 4 and a half.

A quote from Pierre Bacon

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Pierre Bacon no longer has the means to pay for housing, because affordable rents are extremely rare.

Transit Sept-Îles, which supports homeless people, estimates that around a hundred new affordable type 3 and a half housing units are necessary.< /p>

This is still insufficient, according to researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Dr. Éric Latimer.

Probably, in the long term, it's going to take more than 100 housing units, because there are going to be new people who are going to become homeless before the 100 housing units are ready, he warns.

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At Transit Sept-Îles, emergency beds allow a stay of a few nights for homeless people. (File photo)

Dignity is what Jackie Riverain Imbeault is looking for. To do this, she enrolled in a hairdressing program. When she talks about her project, a big smile lights up her face.

I'm going to be a hairdresser at home. I'm going to walk around the houses, I'm going to do the entire family's hair. I would like that.

Jackie Riverain Imbeault and Pierre Bacon both believe that the construction of new housing could contribute to the fight against homelessness in Sept- Islands.

In 2022, only 1.4% of housing units were unoccupied in Sept-Îles.

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