By Geoff Agombar
Local Journalism Initiative
The City of Sherbrooke will develop a homelessness action plan in 2022, and has authorized new funding for the Partage Saint-François in the amount of $35,000 annually for three years.
Unanimous approval was granted during a vote by executive council on Nov. 30, the same day the mayor held a press conference to announce the Joffre Bridge encampment would be cleared, and discussed during a plenary session Dec. 6, shortly after the clearing had been completed.
Caroline Proulx, head of the Recreation and Community Life Division of the city’s Sports, Culture and Community Life service, reported that the dismantling of the camp was the culmination of two weeks work in coordination with a variety of internal and external partners.
Shortly after 5 p.m., Guylaine Perron of the Sherbrooke Police Service confirmed that the day had gone smoothly and that, as of that moment, the site had been cleaned of material and cleared of people.
Proulx continued with her overview of the complexities surrounding policies and the development of a homelessness action plan. It is by no means a new problem in Sherbrooke. Any effective solutions must be broadly coordinated, and the city must study the issue to identify its best roles within a constellation of actors. Responsibility is spread across all levels of government, plus dozens of private and not-for-profit organizations operating within the municipality. She notes that COVID-19 has only widened the gaps that were already problematic before the pandemic.
“We really need to find the areas where the city has room to act. We must not substitute ourselves for our partners,” says Proulx.
Councillor Geneviève La Roche asked whether and when council could know how many people had left the camp without going to existing services or another safe situation. Proulx answered she cannot offer a precise portrait of those numbers. But, she was aware of one individual who received help in moving belongings to a nearby apartment and another who went to Le Transit, and some who had access to a rental subsidy funds. “So, there is a multitude of situations.” She says that Partage Saint-François has more open spaces at the beginning of the month, so some people were able to return to there.
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