On Jan. 6, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would be in effect from Jan. 9 until at least Feb. 8. When asked about exemptions for unsheltered Quebecers, Legault falsely claimed that there is enough room for the unhoused in Montreal’s shelter infrastructure, leaving community organizations to fill in the gaps. While the response to Legault’s statement has rightfully been critical, it is disheartening to see many well-intentioned volunteers wondering how to help, and coming up blank.

This paralysis speaks to a troubling trend in citizen engagement on the question of supporting unhoused populations: That of always being in emergency aid mode. Certainly, the spike in the number of unsheltered people due to the pandemic has introduced a new need to put out fires, but as citizens focus on issues ranging from food insecurity, to the lack of public toilets, to the need for larger shelters, creative solutions to relieve pressure on the shelter system are not receiving the attention they deserve.