This year, the Maison du Père celebrates 45 years of faithfully serving homeless men. It was run by the Pères Trinitaires (Trinitarian Fathers) for more than 35 of those years.
The Maison was given its name by its first residents, a dozen down-and-out men who were taken in by Père Guy Laforte, night after night, at a house he had renovated, for and with them, on St-André Street. His goal in establishing this organization was clear: “I do not want to set up a charitable organization that would only sustain them in their poverty … I want them to become responsible… Here, I want them to rediscover a reason for living by realizing they can still be of use.”
That is why, on top of providing meals and lodging, Father Laforte soon added therapy in the form of farm stays in Saint-Fortunat to enable the men to take charge of their lives.
Many things have changed over the years, however. While abstaining from alcohol and performing tough, physical farm work were beneficial to men in the 1970s, that formula no longer suits today’s issues.
Along with the “rubbies” of that time, we now have men with physical and/or mental health issues, individuals who have developed addictions to hard drugs or gambling, others who have lost their jobs or are going through a separation, or simply men who, because of their low income, can’t manage to find a decent apartment because affordable housing is almost unobtainable.
To meet the increasingly complex needs of the 400 men it helps every day, the Maison du Père currently has over one hundred employees, the great majority of whom are social work or health professionals. We are fortunate to be able to count, as well, on a team of 130 regular volunteers who work in our support services.
The Maison du Père is thus no longer simply a shelter where men can eat and sleep. It’s a centre for referral and social reintegration. It is various kinds of housing, including long-term housing for homeless seniors. It is now even community health care, a bridge between the health network and disaffiliated individuals.