Inuk woman once homeless now part of Montreal’s effort to put people in homes

The city is committing $2.5 million a year for housing and shelters.


Danielle Rochette
APTN National News
MONTREAL – Lena Onalik is from Kangiqsualuajjuaq, Nunavik – a long way from the streets of Montreal.

She arrived in Montreal two years ago and was in a precarious situation.

The streets became home.

But now she is part of an outreach workers team at the Native Friendship Centre in Montreal.

She is helping the homeless Inuit downtown.

“I was on the street for a while and I finally got my home which is excellent … I love it,” said Onalik. “Helping the ones who do not have a home yet is good for me.”

The mayor of Montreal recently announced a three-year action plan to combat homelessness.

The city is committing $2.5 million a year for housing and shelters.

A project of hundreds of housing units is also under development.

Denis Coderre admits that is not enough.

But the city is moving in the right direction.

“It’s never enough, of course,” said Coderre. “But sometimes resources does not mean a matter of money it’s a matter of awareness, it is a matter of political will.”

Adrienne Campbell has been the director of the only overnight Aboriginal shelter in Montreal for many years.

She’s pleased to hear Coderre going to bat for the most vulnerable.

Campbell was particularly happy about creating a homelessness ombudsman.

“He actually plans to give a voice directly to the people … he was able to recognize that and put that in there, which again is a huge lift from any other action plan,” she said.

Campbell said affordable housing and increased employment are important solutions but are only pieces of a big pie, especially relating to Indigenous peoples.

“For us having a focus investing in healing services, health services especially for Aboriginal people is very important,” she said.

Back at the friendship centre, Onalik goes about her day.

When asked about what the homeless people really need her answer comes quick.

“Support,” she said.

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