He Was Forced to Leave the Shelter. Then, Tragedy

Raphael Andre, who was homeless, died in port-a-potty steps from shelter on cold Montreal night
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2021 10:15 AM CST
Forced to Leave Shelter, Homeless Man Dies Steps Away
Raphael Andre died in a port-a-potty just like this one.   (Getty Images/KajaNi)

A homeless man's tragic death in Canada is shining a spotlight on the far-reaching consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Montreal police say an Indigenous Innu man died overnight Saturday on a cold street just steps away from a shelter that was forced to close for the night, partly due to an outbreak of COVID-19. The man, identified as 51-year-old Raphael Andre, had spent much of Saturday at the Open Door shelter, which was previously open around the clock, before it was forced to close at 9:30pm on orders from the health authority, reports the CBC. Andre's body was located Sunday morning in a port-a-potty just steps away from the shelter's doors. Though the Quebec coroner's office is still investigating the cause of death, a shelter employee says Andre was "under the influence" when he fell asleep in the toilet, then "froze to death," per CTV News.

The shelter began offering 24-hour services on Dec. 1, but it was forced to close a couple of weeks later after a plumbing issue, and after a client and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19, per the CBC. When the shelter reopened this month, the health authority said it would have to close nightly until several health recommendations were met, the outlet adds. But Melodie Racine, Open Door's executive director, says she never received any recommendations. "It's ridiculous. I have a space that is empty at night while there are people sleeping outside," she tells the CBC. Acknowledging the need for improved access to homeless services during the pandemic, Mayor Valerie Plante says she's working with local authorities to ensure the shelter is allowed to open at night. Per the Montreal Gazette, André could've found an open bed at other city shelters on Saturday. (More homeless stories.)

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