Photo: Alain Décarie
Out in the regions, you seldom see homeless people begging at the corner. But they really are there, and their cases are more and more complicated. Since the deinstitutionalization of hospitals, people with mental health problems have struggled to find a place to live or to find and keep a job. People who are having a rough time want to stay in their own part of the country, where they still have some familiar reference points. These are some of the hidden faces of homelessness.
L’Accueil inconditionnel (the phrase means ”an unconditional welcome”) is an initiative of Le Bercail de Saing-Georges that gives people who are feeling extreme social rejection a chance to feel welcome, with no constraints or criteria. The group offers services to people from the Beauce-Sartigan, Robert-Cliche and des Etchemins MRCs. The house is located near the suicide prevention office and across from a 23-bed day centre. The clientele essentially consists of people between the ages of 18 and 30 – homeless, living on an extremely low in come, and in many cases, with no social connections.
In addition to a place to stay, le Bercail organizes activities that boost self-esteem and foster the development of individual and social skills. It’s also a referral point from which people in need are directed to the right place.
Every year, le Bercail welcomes about 400 people and serves more than 12,000 meals. In other words, the need is still great. Residents make use of these services for an average of 15 days. That transition gives them, in addition to essential care, an opportunity to receive the follow-up they need to rejoin the mainstream community, in partnership with various groups in the region.
To learn more about homelessness in rural areas, click here.