Well, it’s not the kind of video that will warm your heart on such a cold day, but it may just make your blood boil. With the windchill, it’s currently -40 degrees in Montreal, but that didn’t stop SPVM officer Gauthier from threatening to tie a homeless man to a poll outside for an hour.
In this video, originally shared on Facebook by Adis Simidzija, we don’t get the beginning of the altercation, but we do hear Gauthier saying that the man, clearly not well clothed for the weather, was being aggressive. Then we get the threat, that if he doesn’t stop, Gauthier will tie him to a poll outside for an hour.
Regardless of what the man was doing (except killing someone, which he clearly wasn’t), threatening to tie someone up outside in this weather is akin to threatening to beat him up or shoot him. It is an inexcusable threat of cruel violence by this officer.
A Montreal bar owner made quite an impression this week when he announced the creation of a coalition of business owners to combat homelessness in the downtown.
In an article on the CBC about the coalition, Peter Sergakis, owner of Station des Sports and Sky Bar, among other bars, was made to appear as though he was waging “war on homeless people” and that he was only out for his own interests.
A frustrated Sergakis spoke to Forget the Box today, denying any war on homeless people.
“It’s not a war,” he said. “Those people [the homeless] need help and we have to provide for them. I am declaring war maybe on the government of Quebec. I haven’t heard a word from all of the [politicians] when I press the issue because they don’t get votes from them.
Asked to describe in detail what he hopes to do with his coalition, Sergakis says he will announce plans in a couple weeks after members have a chance to meet. One of the major functions of the group will be to raise funds to donate to various organizations that work with homeless people.
Herman Alves, an associate of Sergakis, said that they are looking into holding fundraisers one day a year at all six Station des Sports in Montreal area. All money made on these days will be put toward the coalition.
“I really believe that the homeless [steal food] because they are hungry—so lets give them food,” he said. “Lets feed them on a daily basis so they don’t have to steal or take things from the tourists.”
Word of Sergakis’s empathy for homeless people was a surprise to Dorothy Massimo, director of development and communications at Dans la Rue, an organization that supports homeless people in Montreal.
“Wow, that’s very, very, very different from what he said [in previous interviews],” Massimo said upon hearing about Sergakis’s plans.
“If we have this very influential business person who wants to work side by side with us to eliminate the problem […] it would be an amazing force. I welcome a call from him. I would love to sit at the table with him,” she said.
Sergakis said he would like to see Dans la Rue be open 24 hours a day, five days a week, to help with the homeless people he says are harassing customers on his terraces.
Though Massimo agrees that having Dans la Rue open 24 hours would be beneficial to the community, she says that it would take way more money than they currently receive as donations from individuals—their main source of revenue.
She also cautions against pushing the homeless away from downtown.
“If you push them farther away, then the situation is just going to get worse,” she said.
“It’ll work for the summer to get them away from the terraces, and the problem will look like it’s solved. If [Sergakis] is really looking for a long-term solution, I suggest he work with the community that is providing those services to the homeless.”
* Look for a full video interview with Sergakis and others this Tuesday on Forget The Box.
CKUT 90.3 will be holding their 9th annual Homelessness Marathon starting at 5pm on Wednesday February 23rd until Thursday morning in front of the Native Friendship Center (2001 Saint-Laurent boulevard). Year after year, the CKUT Homelessness Marathon gives a voice to the homeless and those who work to help them. On the marathon’s agenda are topics addressing urban poverty and homelessness over a 14 hour stretch of people-powered radio.
The marathon serves as a spotlight for those relating their experiences, struggles and successes within the issues of poverty and homelessness. By bringing together radio hosts, CLSC social workers and organizations like Cactus, the marathon also serves as a testimony of hope and proof of the collective action that’s happening on the streets of Montreal. Some of the marathon’s other partners, which include the Peoples’ Potato, Midnight Kitchen and Santropol are teaming up to offer coffee and food to attendees, passersby and volunteer staff in front of the Native Friendship center (which will be open 24 hours during this all-night event).
The marathon, which is completely run by volunteers, street-level social workers and dozens of partner radio stations across the country, primarily seeks to bring homelessness and poverty to the forefront of public dialogue. Gretchen King, the national coordinator for the Homelessness Marathon, affirms that homelessness and poverty “are issues that touch every one of us.” The Marathon’s mandate, in King’s words, is “to develop an awareness and a political willingness” which have a potential to lead to more action, and thus more results, than playing the political game or collecting funds.
The first homelessness marathon was the brainchild of New Yorker radio host Jeremy Alderson. Alderson states on the U.S. Marathon’s homepage that fundamental changes in the nation’s priorities are necessary to make considerable progress and “the mission of the marathon is to ignite a national dialogue about what these changes should be.” Ultimately, ending homelessness is not a matter of charity, but a matter of changing the way our society is structured.
King also attributes the continuation of poverty to the endless push-back of this topic on the public and political agenda, stating that the government is increasingly taking a back seat on development of social housing and “are obviously not engaged in really dealing with the structural and social issues surrounding homelessness.”
With homeless shelters overflowing and an estimated 30 000 homeless people living in Montreal in 2010 according to L’Itinéraire‘s editor in chief (February 2011), homelessness and poverty should be hot topics in the Government’s agenda during these cold winter months. Despite the evidence of a growing need for more government funding to build and maintain social housing, day centers and other resources for the homeless, spending for the social sphere is inadequate for the demand that presents itself (Info RAPSIM,L’Itinéraire Feb. 2011).
The statistics of homelessness in Montreal are as dismal as having to stay outside all night in one of the coldest countries in the world. King describes the experience of spending the night outside during the diffusion of the Marathon’s programming as “brutal… You lose your ability to speak fluidly. But being outside is a part of what I want to take in [from the marathon].”
While the topic of homelessness comes very close to home for many Montrealers, this tough topic is tagged with a lot of hope coming from the Marathon crew. “If we can take these 14 hours and translate that into 365 day experience, we’d treat the issue [of homelessness] completely different” (King).
For a full list of program topics, coordinates, and instructions for the live stream, visit http://ckut.ca/homeless/ for more details. You’re encouraged to tune in or show up and contribute (live!) to the marathon in order to take in the full experience.
9th Annual Homelessness Marathon – Wednesday 5pm until Thursday 7am @ the Native Friendship Center (2001 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Saint-Laurent metro). CKUT Contact : Gretchen King, firstname.lastname@example.org.