We have just returned from the Assises de l’Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) where social distress was one of the central themes, along with climate change and tax issues.
Val-d’Or was invited to participate in a panel with Montreal and Quebec on the sad reality of people living on the street, where we shared our findings and outlined possible long-term solutions, such as improving the supply of supervised social housing.
Homelessness in Val-d’Or? It may seem counter-intuitive, but this situation has existed there for many years. It is getting worse to the point where it has become critical. In recent weeks, many of our fellow citizens have called on us to share their experiences and fears related to a marked increase in homelessness and delinquency in the heart of our municipality.
Homelessness-related crime is on the rise or emerging everywhere, and the impacts are numerous: loss of sense of security, multiplication of vandalism, ranging from graffiti to shoplifting, and desertion of public spaces. This climate weighs heavily on traders as much as on the population.
Of course, all these impacts do not make us forget the misery and distress experienced by people on the street. Many services are offered to them, in Val-d’Or and elsewhere, both by the CISSSs and by a myriad of community organizations to lighten their daily lives and give them access to shelter and food, to fill their basic needs. We must maintain this compassion for the most vulnerable members of our population and do everything to help them, without however undermining the social fabric of our communities, which has already been tested in recent years by the pandemic and an increase in negative discourse on social networks.
The issues of homelessness are added to the many responsibilities of municipalities, not because it is delegated to them by the Government of Quebec, but because the population turns to its local government in order to mitigate the impacts of this distress. social. Yet these responsibilities fall to the provincial government. The City of Val-d’Or already exceeds its areas of jurisdiction by participating in various strategic committees and by supporting the concrete actions of our partners, in addition to having implemented a panoply of actions to reduce tensions in environment, whether it be the addition of resources to ensure cleanliness, the additional hiring of police cadets and the improvement of the animation of public spaces. Unfortunately, these actions are struggling to achieve their objective as the situation is so serious.
We had to demand rapid and vigorous intervention from the Government of Quebec in order to restore the feeling of security, while ensuring adequate care and services for homeless people, in particular mechanisms for getting out of the street. We must act with urgency, before the acute tensions within our communities turn into tragedies.