The Roulant has seen the stark evolution of its neighbourhood in the past few years. In response, we have joined efforts in the area to support people experiencing homelessness. The projects initiated are a natural extension of our work, and will only gain momentum in 2024.
We want to continue sowing these seeds to meet the soaring need. Together, we can weave a community that is even more diverse, caring and inclusive of people who are otherwise losing hope.
An evolving neighbourhood
On the ground, the latest data is put into evidence: the streets surrounding the Roulant are home to an exponential number of people living in vulnerable situations. The Hôtel-Dieu, just next door to the La Cité-des-Hospitalières garden, was recently converted into a much-needed 6-storey, 186-bed shelter, while other emergency housing and gathering spaces farther south have closed their doors for good.
Access to affordable housing is not going to change quickly in the central districts of Montreal. The people affected find themselves in precarious situations that impact their health, food security, and sense of belonging – all things we are intimately familiar with in the context of our Meals-on-Wheels – with little hope of improvement.
The Roulant’s response
Faced with this realisation, the Roulant consulted community partners and listened to its members. We knew what we had to bring to the table: an exceptional ability to bring Montrealers together around food and gardening. But we had no experience addressing issues of homelessness.
A collective momentum
We are stronger when we work in solidarity with other actors in the field. Over the past twelve months, the Roulant has developed a partnership with Comm-Un, an organization specialising in street issues in Milton Parc; another with Plein Milieu, an expert in homelessness on the Plateau Mont-Royal; and a third with Welcome Mission Hall and Mission Old Brewery, who manage the Hôtel-Dieu shelter.
These partnerships have given rise to two initiatives that have empowered the Roulant community to do what it does best: to cook and share good food, and harness the transformative power of social agriculture.
The Solidarity Kiosk
Every Friday this summer and fall, a new activity was hosted in the revamped Terrasses Roy gardens in front of Santropol Roulant. This weekly Solidarity Kiosk, open to everyone but particularly targeted towards beneficiaries of partner organizations, included a free soup service, sliding scale vegetable distributions, and gardening activities. This impacted the ambiance of Roy Street, fostering a vibrant social scene where everyone felt welcomed and valued.
La Cité’s inclusive gardens
Meanwhile, the urban agriculture team hosted workshops designed to welcome people experiencing homelessness at the La Cité gardens. From harvesting seeds and vegetables to picking flower bouquets, this therapeutic green space brought together Inuit and Mohawk groups, nuns, volunteers, and people with vastly differing socio-economic realities. The effects of such exchanges, we were told, were deeply impactful.
Your role at the heart of the action
Since launching these initiatives, the Meals-on-Wheels service has continued delivering more meals than ever in the face of ever-increasing costs. We continue to build agricultural programs that welcome hundreds of volunteers, children, and community members. We haven’t for a moment stopped centering the food security and social inclusion of Montrealers, across generations.
The Roulant community has accelerated its evolution to welcome a growing number of people, based on the belief that everyone is deserving of dignity and care. We are not proposing to solve these intersectional issues. We are simply planting seeds that will allow us to meet more people where they are in their trying journeys, in concert with community partners, for laser-focussed charitable impact.
It is this community action we hope you will contribute to today through your generous donation.
Wishing you a warm, happy, and festive season,
Melanie & Pier
Illustrations by Kenna Kay