8 overdoses reported at Montreal shelter on Sunday

Residents and staff at a homeless shelter in downtown Montreal are reeling after eight community members suffered overdoses on Sunday.

Police say it’s unclear if the victims were all using the same substance, but the overdoses occurred back-to-back. While seven victims are considered stable Monday morning, one woman is still in critical condition.

Emergency services were first called to the corner of St-Dominique and Ontario Streets around 4:10 p.m., half a block from the Projets Autochtones du Québec (PAQ) shelter.

Workers at the shelter, located inside the Hôtel des Arts, administered the opioid antidote naloxone before paramedics arrived.

Four of the victims were rushed to hospital. One of them, a 42-year-old woman, is still fighting for her life.

A second incident occurred about an hour later inside the shelter itself. According to PAQ executive director Heather Johnston, two men suffered overdoses but were stable when they arrived at the hospital.

Johnston said the shelter’s occupants and staff were “traumatized” and “devastated” by the day’s events.

“It was a real shock,” she told CTV News, describing the shelter as a tight-knit community.

“There’s a lot of support between people. There’s often family and friends who are all together, either at the shelter or hanging out on the street,” she said. “When something like that happens, yeah, there’s a real shock.”

Shelter worker Hamde Mohammed said drug issues in the area have intensified recently.

“It’s been like one year now, we’ve had lot of fentanyl going around this area, especially downtown,” he said.

Johnston agrees. She said there’s been an increase in “dirty drugs” and overdoses in the shelter over the past year.

“The homelessness crisis, the housing crisis, they all go together, it’s hand-in-hand. These are big-picture, systemic problems that need dialogue and discussion and partnerships at all levels.”

In a statement, Montreal’s public health department confirmed it’s investigating the overdoses: “We are conducting this survey in collaboration with several partners in order to fully characterize the situation and the risk to the population.”


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