Help us warm the hearts of vulnerable people

Essential needs
Mental Health
December 7, 2021 •  By Centraide
Femme qui marche dans la neige

While most of us spend December celebrating, sharing, and spending time with family and friends, so many others will go through this month feeling especially isolated.

In Greater Montreal, more than half a million people live alone, which represents 14% of the population. Among seniors, this percentage increases to 31% (184,420 people). The situation is even more severe on the Island of Montreal, where over 50% of seniors live alone.

Many have nowhere to go to celebrate the season. The same is true for people experiencing homelessness and newcomers far from their loved ones.

More solitary than ever

Family and friends are so important during the holidays. People without a family network or who are far from their loved ones will feel their solitude even more during this time of year. Those with mental health issues will also tend to be more vulnerable and see their anxiety or depression symptoms worsen.

Many community agencies supported by Centraide strive to break social isolation. In December, they organize special holidays events and, most importantly, ensure that isolated people get the resources they need during this critical time.

A few heart-warming initiatives

Giving people festive family time

At Resto Plateau, 230 isolated seniors and people experiencing homelessness will get a free Christmas meal on December 15. There will be three servings, with two at lunchtime and one at dinner, along with music, entertainment and door prizes.

“People had to answer a survey to get a meal voucher,” explained Natacha Gwizdalla, Communications Officer at Resto Plateau. “Overall, 98% of the people who answered the survey are alone. For them, it’s really about spending that together time as you would with your family.”

A first holiday in Quebec

In Ahuntsic, CANA (Carrefour d’aide aux nouveaux arrivants) will welcome newcomers to a potluck meal to celebrate the end-of-year holidays. This will help them feel more connected and meet others going through the same experiences.

They can also get referrals to citizen organizers and a support network that brings together immigrant citizens with newcomers to the neighbourhood. “Citizen organizers inform, refer and support newcomers who need some help getting their bearings,” explained Audrey Chambrier, Communications Officer at CANA.

A neighbourhood project to celebrate

In Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, residents can enjoy two weeks full of surprises with “Together in December,” a community togetherness project launched by the NDG Community Council. Activities will include hot chocolate handed out around the neighbourhood by volunteers; deliveries to 600 vulnerable residents of hot meals purchased from neighbourhood restaurants; Christmas dinners at HLM; visits to 300 families between Christmas and New Year’s; and 500 greeting cards created by residents given to people living alone.

“The project aims to keep people connected during the holiday season and to engage residents and partners so that they can develop a sense of community and belonging“

*Source: NDG Community Council Website

Shelter and sustenance for all

Whether at Christmas or any other day of the year, no one should be forced to stay out all night. Thanks to extra funding generated by our annual campaign, Centraide is supporting 12 more homeless agencies on top of the ones that it supports on a recurring basis. These new agencies include three shelters and warming centres in the downtown area, two of which are specifically for the Indigenous population. The other nine are in Greater Montreal’s more outlying neighbourhoods and areas, where homelessness has increased since the start of the pandemic: Ahuntsic, CDN-NDG, Montréal-Nord, West Island–Lachine and Le Sud-Ouest, Laval, and the South Shore.

These agencies include AJOI, La Halte du coin, L’amour en action, Maison Benoît Labre, Médecins du monde, Prévention CDN-NDG, Projet Autochtone du Québec, Refuge et Café de rue, Rue Action Prévention Jeunesse, St. Michael’s Mission, The Open Door and (TRAC) Travail de Rue/Action Communautaire.

Always there to listen

Crisis centres that provide listening services to people in distress always see an increase in calls around the holidays. During this time, the 211 phone line is the main referral point that directs people to crisis lines or other community resources.

Many seniors’ agencies, such as Projet changement in the Plateau-Mont-Royal, the Centre Communautaire des Aînées et Aînés de Longueuil, and the Centre Multi-Ressources de Lachine will be taking the lead to ensure the well-being of vulnerable seniors. Groups of volunteers will make in-person visits or comforting phone calls to people who are more isolated.