By Geoff Agombar
Local Journalism initiative
The city of Sherbrooke will dismantle the encampment under Joffre Bridge by Monday, citing dropping temperatures and fire as risks that can no longer be ignored.
At a press conference at city hall Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Évelyne Beaudin announced the plan, citing consultation and advice of community organizations and security services.
Beaudin said community organizations will spend the intervening week working with camp residents on a case-by-case basis to find solutions adapted to their personal needs.
The mayor insisted that citizens should refrain from coming to the site to offer food, clothing, and material donations directly to camp occupants, because it discourages the use of specialized services. Instead, Beaudin encourages citizens to direct their material donations to relevant social services and their monetary donations via the relevant Centraide campaign.
“Our fellow citizens experiencing homelessness need human warmth and support. We need humans to care for humans,” says Beaudin. “There are no universal solutions. Every approach must be entirely personalized. We need to help each person to relocate so they can find a degree of comfort this winter, whether that is within one of these organizations, with friends or family, or in lodgings, or a room, or an apartment of their own. Every situation is different, and the solution depends on the individual.”
Beaudin announced municipal plans to offer Partage St-François an injection of $35,000. At this time, PSF general manager Sébastien Laberge said these funds would go into general budget, and were not earmarked for a specific program or project. Laberge suggested these funds would not address issues which had led to four one-night closures of at his shelter this year, as that was more specific to shortages of trained staff.
Earlier, Normand Couture of the Association des locataires de Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke Tenants Association) held a press conference at the encampment to denounce statements by the mayor, judged prejudicial.