Business as usual for Sherbrooke’s homeless and vulnerable services

Business as usual for Sherbrooke’s homeless and vulnerable services
(Photo : Record Archives/Gordon Lambie)

By Michael Boriero
Local Journalism Initiative

Quebec’s latest lockdown measures, including the reinstatement of a controversial curfew, have caused many sectors to switch gears, however, Sherbrooke’s homeless and vulnerable services remain open for business.

According to Partage St-François General Director Sébastien Laberge, the government’s recent announcement has little impact on the city’s homeless shelter. He isn’t about to get a rush of people in his building, either, he explained, this is usually a pretty quiet period for the shelter.

“What I know is that we have spaces open. For us, in the winter, it’s our slowest period of the year. I have very little traffic in the winter, beds are always available, and there are less and less people coming to the shelter,” said Laberge.

He told The Record that typically during the months of December, January, and February — the province’s coldest months — people go above and beyond to find solutions in order to stay out of the snow. He has worked at the shelter for eight years and it’s the same thing every winter.

“When it starts getting cold, people are a bit more motivated to keep their housing and to pay attention. In the summer, people pay less attention, and property owners will also be more prone to kicking someone out in July,” Laberge said.

He added that even if, by chance, the shelter is completely full, his staff never shuts the door to someone in need. If someone knocks on the door late at night, they’re always ushered in to find warmth, a cup of coffee, snacks, and sometimes fresh clothes, Laberge continued.

When asked about the impact Quebec’s lockdown measures can have on the homeless population, Laberge said he prefers to stay out of the debate on a personal level. But he noted that the Sherbrooke Police Service (SPS) handled the lockdown with care in 2020.
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