City councilor recruits homeless for snow removal

By Michelle Pucci

After calling out the city of Laval for neglecting to clean public passages too small for snow cleaning machines to no avail, a city councillor decided to take snow-cleaning problems into his own hands.

Laval-des-Rapides representative Pierre Anthian sought the help of two men he knows from working on the streets to clear important stairs and passages in his area that are used by thousands of people each day, such as those around Montmorency and de la Concorde metros.

At the last council meeting Anthian brought up the idea of creating a team of two or three people with shovels to work, without the big machines. “People like you and me cleaning staircases.” he told The Suburban.

“But they refused, saying it wasn’t their expertise.”

Beside being a city councillor, Anthian works and sings with the Montreal Homeless Choir, helping homeless people find shelter, or in this case, temporary work.

“It’s a bit ironic that it’s men that are homeless opening the path to workers on their way to the metro,” Anthian said.

There are six or seven spots where that aren’t big enough to fit big public workers machinery, he said. City workers are experts in boulevards, streets, sidewalks, but not small passages or stairs.

One of the passages is the de la Concorde pedestrian bridge, a public space that sees hundreds of people everyday. It’s a grey zone, Anthian says, since neither AMT or the city took action to clear the snow in time.

“There are lots of places that are neglected, ”Anthian said, hoping representatives in other parts of the city are inspired to take action to clear public spaces. It’s not that much of a dent in the city’s budget, he says.

Laval residents have also demanded that the city clean its dog parks, but were told it was impossible because public snow removal machines would ruin the park’s grass. Enlisting the help of homeless men that are fit to work can also help solve the dog park problem, says Anthian.

“We have dogs all year round, we can’t just put them away somewhere in the winter to get out in the spring,” he said. “It’s completely normal that the dog parks are maintained in the winter.”

If the city wished to employ people, specifically homeless people, he continued, these new workers have the chance to better get off the streets.

“It’s very simple, some neighbours lent me their shovels, and all we need is arms, good spirit, and maybe a few taxis to transport them from the metro to the parks,” the councillor said.

Anthian’s first try at the snow removal solution last Thursday cost him $48—$12 per hour per person—and all the passages were cleared of snow, he said.

“If the city doesn’t want to do it, I will continue to pay for it from my personal budget,” he said.

If it costs $200 each time with four workers, Anthian estimates it will cost him about $1000 for the four or five snow storm.

“I receive $29,000 per year for my work as a councillor, so I’m happy to share 1/29th of my salary to ensure that there are fewer accidents,” he said.

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