Chez Doris opens a new night shelter for women

The organization Chez Doris, which helps homeless women, inaugurated its new night shelter for women on Thursday. Starting September 19, the new Elspeth McConnell night shelter will be able to accommodate up to 24 women, offering a total of 8,760 overnight stays per year.

The “Chez Doris, Jour et nuit” fundraising campaign enabled the organization to collect more than $15 million, the majority of which comes from private partners and three levels of government, including $1.88 million from the City of Montreal. Of this amount, $5.2 million was used to purchase a 19th century house located at 1437 rue Chomedey and to carry out work to improve the night shelter.

The funds raised by the fundraising campaign will also allow Chez Doris to open a permanent residence of 26 affordable rental apartments for women in precarious situations as of 2023.

“We are seeing a steady increase in women looking for healthy and safe places to spend the night and an increase in requests for help finding accommodation,” explains Chez Doris’ general manager, Marina Boulos-Winton.

Our new shelter will allow us to reach vulnerable women where they are, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Marina Boulos-Winton

The new night shelter is located on the sidewalk across from the pre-existing Chez Doris day shelter, and a few blocks from Square Cabot.

An inclusive and adapted refuge

During the inauguration, the smell of fresh paint filled the rooms of the new refuge, which is spread over three floors. Of the 24 beds, 22 are capsule beds, in order to give more privacy to the beneficiaries. Each bed has its own ventilation system, a night lamp, wifi access and an electrical outlet. Two regular beds will also be available in separate rooms.

The building includes a cloakroom, bathrooms, a laundry room, a dining room, as well as a kitchenette and a multipurpose room. In order to be as inclusive as possible, an extension with an elevator was added to the building to allow access to customers with reduced mobility.

Thanks to a partnership with the Zarabella Foundation, homeless women can even come with their dog.

Needs for psychiatric services

The psychiatric disorders present in more and more homeless women are one of the challenges for Chez Doris.

We’ve always had women with mental problems, but not as many […]. You end up with untreated people who need medical help. For us, this is a cry of alarm.

Marine Boulos-Winton, CEO of Chez Doris

A psychiatrist already comes once a month, but for the executive director, it is necessary to have more psychiatric services to help her clientele. She is asking for help from the McGill University Health Center (MUHC) and the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal to deploy more mental health resources.

A place without judgment

A well-known problem at Chez Doris is the fear of trans women and non-binary homeless people of being discriminated against in accommodation services. As a result, many of these people do not go to emergency shelters.

“Everyone has adjusted over time and it’s education too,” says Marine Boulos-Winton.

She explains that the employees of the shelter have been trained in the realities of LGBTQ2+ people to allow them to be welcomed in the best conditions, without judgement. Soon, a transgender employee and a non-binary person will also join the Chez Doris team.

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