On the road: “I am insecure” | Elections Quebec 2022

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On the road “ I feel insecure”” | ÉQuebec 2022 Elections

La 117 has long been the royal route of the Laurentians. Since deserted by tourists for the benefit of the 15, it is struggling with a completely different form of traffic jam, that of human misery. This text is the eighth in our series On the road – In search of Quebec.

Pierre Durocher draws his wealth behind him.

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FROM SAINT-JÉRÔME TO LANTIER – We left the 15, the highway of skiing, shopping centers, the suburbs which pushes always further north. In Mirabel, we took the old 117 flanked by used-car dealerships, which offer “credit odds”, strip bars, farmhouses that seem misplaced.

At a red light, the yellow sign of a Belle Province announces a special on the smoke- meat and displays a job offer. The sign is broken. It's held in place with red tape. On this stretch of the 117, the Belle Province, not the restaurant, but the territory, looks sad and abandoned.

At the height of the Galeries des Collines, a small shopping center dating from a bygone era when the 117 was the road to the North, the cold and heavy rain, which follows us from Montreal, intensifies. I'm in the moon when, in the rear view mirror, a stunning image appears. A man in pajama bottoms pulls a cart covered with plastic sheeting.

We get out of the car to meet him. His name is Pierre Durocher. He drags everything he owns on this cart of misfortune. He is 41 years old and gentle looking. Despite the rain, he takes the time to tell us about his misfortunes. Without pathos. Pierre has been on the street for two years. He waits for the first snow to find a refuge. Elections, yes, I've heard of that, but I'm insecure, so I don't have time to really watch it.

Are you insecure? Pierre describes symptoms of anxiety. I think that's what he meant, actually. But, at the same time, his formula is undoubtedly the right one. Being insecure.

Pierre takes his cart back towards an overpass under which he intends to settle for the night. But after a few meters, we see him in the rear view mirror settling under a balcony. It's raining too much. His burden is too heavy, no doubt.

In Saint-Jérôme, there would be nearly 200 homeless people, delivered to the bad weather of life. A few dozen of them are sleeping in a well-organized emergency shelter, funded by our social services, set up in a church in the city center; the others, like Pierre, sleep under the viaducts. But for several months, many of them have been spending the night here, in this former legion premises.

The Canadian Legion office, rue du Souvenir, in Saint-Jérôme.

In front of the door, a khaki tank from the Second World War sits on a soggy lawn. In the yard, a basket of groceries awaits the sun. A young man wearing those hats you buy at Dollarama for Halloween for children, in the shape of a stuffed rabbit, looks haggard, waits in the doorway.

A stoic young woman stands by, a bag of groceries on her head to protect herself, a bit from the rain, among other things. And perhaps his dark thoughts.

Rachel Lapierre, 61, gets out of his car with his arms full. Her residents greet her. This evening, there will be 80 of them coming to take refuge where soldiers of another time recounted their memories of the war while having a little drink.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of homeless young people has tripled. I had to find a place for them to come at night, summarizes Rachel Lapierre, as if it were self-evident. But, who is this woman who has found a makeshift home for those who have none?

Rachel Lapierre

While raising her seven children, Rachel Lapierre made repeated trips to Calcutta. I was inspired by Mother Teresa's work with lepers. I helped doctors in India so much that I decided, at the age of 40, to go and get a nursing diploma to be able to help the sick, the injured.

Rachel Lapierre brings her taste for self-sacrifice to Saint-Jérôme, Quebec. Because there is misery where the name of Curé Labelle is everywhere. It's not like India. There, it's always a matter of life and death, but let's just say there's a lot of suffering here.

Rachel Lapierre is a nurse, but she does not work in the health system. A few years ago, at the grocery store, she bought a lotto ticket. Winner for life. At checkout, I made a pact with the universe. I told him: if I win the jackpot, I dedicate myself entirely to the poor. She won.

The organization she founded, Book Humanitaire, has been distributing food for years to the elderly and the poor in the region. She is helped in this by an army of volunteers. Then came the pandemic. And all of a sudden, the number of homeless people on the streets of the city skyrocketed.

Papie, 72

We have a social problem, summarizes Rachel Lapierre. The problem is the low-threshold clientele. Low threshold?

In system jargon, that means people who are hard to help. For example, Geneviève, 38, who comes from Boisbriand and has been sleeping in her old truck since her separation two years ago. Or Mélanie, 43 years old, from Mirabel, who is addicted to speed, or even the one we call here Papie, 72 years old, with whom Ivanoh Demers chatted about photography for a long time.

Papie had 36 trades, but he worked for a long time in a specialty store in Montreal, frequented by photographers.

Everyone here has a story. Grandpa consumes alcohol and he is not ready to wean himself, so he does not have access to the official shelters of the system in the region, says Rachel who hugs her resident warmly. Half the people who sleep here have been shown the door to other shelters in the area.

A word about accessories for injecting drugs, to the body the Humanitarian Book.

In Montreal, they would, no doubt, have services, thinks Rachel. But these people come from the region. They don't want to go to Montreal. There are even parents who come to bring food to their children who live on the street, says Chantal Dumont, 53, who takes care of this stopover with Rachel.

Officially, the old legion is not a place of accommodation, but a heat stop. So there is no bed. Rachel bought a few dozen recliners, or lazy-boys, brown. And there is only one toilet, no shower. But a lot of respect, love, no judgement, no demands.

At night, Chantal is joined by two employees whose salaries are paid by a grant from the CIUSSS of the region .

In recent years, the Laurentians have experienced exponential population growth, but services are not keeping pace. We see more and more young people from good families who have straight teeth. Their parents from Blainville or Sainte-Thérèse bought them brooches. They started smoking crack and they end up here, cites Chantal as an example. In the area, what concerns voters is homelessness and snow removal, in order.

Emotional encounter with a Colombian family and the president of the organization, Rachel Lapierre.

In the furnace chamber of the legion, there are clean needles, shampoo, tampons. Rachel is expecting a Colombian family who entered Canada via Roxham Road a few weeks ago to give her winter laundry. There are more and more undocumented migrants in the region who need to be taken care of. They often have nothing.

It was for people, among others, like the members of the Cortes family, that Rachel bought a recreational vehicle last year where she set up a mobile clinic that criss-crosses the Laurentians. Undocumented migrants do not have health insurance cards.

We find her the next morning, a little higher on the 117 in Lantier. On board the mobile clinic, a doctor, a psychologist, two nurses. A retired Doctors Without Borders logistician. He worked in all the poorest places on earth. Today, he voluntarily offers health care aboard a caravan in the Laurentians.

In front of the caravan, a woman, whose name we will keep silent, is waiting to see the doctor. Her health insurance card stayed with her ex-husband who tried to kill her. She shows me a long scar on her skull. He was angry because I had corded the wood badly and he attacked me with a log, she tells me without flinching.

She still has the long scar on her head from the blow that was dealt her.

VR brings care to a lot of people. Rachel answers my questions, but she looks preoccupied, absent. I ask her what's bothering her.

In Saint-Jérôme, we received an eviction notice. We're going to have to close the Legion Refuge. I understand, we are in a residential area, it is not ideal. But where are they going to go, those who come to us? Where are they going to go, to the toilet? There are no public toilets in Saint-Jérôme. I'm looking for a solution.

It's not easy to be a winner for life on the 117 when you're interested in those whose road is rough in the rain.

Also read from our series:

In search of Quebec: on the road with Steinbeck

On the road: “I have a village that doesn't want to die”

On the road: “Progress for progress's sake, we s where are you going with that?

On the road: “I've been working really hard, girl!” »

On the road: “You can't save your nature worse your dollar sign”

On the road: The broken road that crowned

On the road: “Politics, here, is always complicated”

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