Dans la rue

  • A dozen youth are preparing to board the Van.

    Photo: Cindy Boyce

  • A youth sitting on his bed in the emergency shelter, nicknamed the Bunker.

    Photo: Cindy Boyce

  • Youth are being served lunch in the cafeteria at the day centre.

    Photo: Cindy Boyce

  • A youth in consultation with the psychologists at the day centre.

    Photo: Cindy Boyce


1,200 homeless youth visited the day centre in 2014

42% of youth have been through the youth protection system

76% of youth report that their mental health is poor or very poor

17 apartments, complete with community support, since December 2014, house 15 youth and 2 families

A Philosophy of Dedication, Empathy and Respect

The presence of Father Emmett Johns has loomed large in the minds of homeless youth in downtown Montreal for more than 25 years. In 1988, Father Johns – or “Pops” as he is affectionately known – borrowed $10,000 and bought a second-hand van, taking to the streets to help youth who were homeless and vulnerable. Within weeks, Father founded Le Bon Dieu dans la rue, which is now Quebec’s leading authority on youth homelessness. Dans la rue’s success is a direct result of Father Johns’ personal conviction that every youth deserves a warm meal and a roof over their head, and that they should be treated with caring, compassion and respect, without being judged.

Father Johns’ singular example of selflessness, respect and caring has inspired a team of trained professionals who today run the various services and programs operating under the Dans la rue banner. The street-level outreach to youth continues with the Van, which roams the downtown streets of Montréal five nights a week. It’s staffed entirely by volunteers who pass out hot food and drinks, plus personal items such as toiletries. The Van is the public face of the organization and often the youths’ first encounter with Dans la rue, as well as a source of information to the other services it offers.

The Day Centre and the Bunker

Up to 200 homeless youth daily visit Dans la rue’s day centre. Some come for a hot meal and the friendly atmosphere, others seek counselling from the centre’s highly trained intervention staff, while others attend the Emmett Johns high school or participate in the employability programs.

The Bunker, also run by the organisation, is in the neighbourhood where other services for marginalized youth are located. It provides temporary overnight shelter for homeless youth, between the ages of 12 to 21, with priority given to minors. Here they can obtain a nutritious supper and breakfast, discuss their current situation with counsellors, have a good night’s sleep and escape the stresses and dangers of the street.                                

The overriding goal of the Dans la rue team is to care for their immediate needs, provide a consistent source of support and help them acquire the skills and resources needed to lead more autonomous and rewarding lives.

“Since 1988, Father Johns has built an astounding organization, providing entrepreneurial leadership and inspiration to create a street-level organization of professionals and volunteers who provide a myriad of support services to homeless youth,” says Michel Plessis-Bélair, a member of the Donations Committee of Power Corporation. “The work of Dans la rue has changed the lives of countless vulnerable youth in the city.”

“Dans la rue is extremely grateful for the support it receives from loyal partners like Power Corporation. We could not reach out to street youth and perform the work we do were it not for their commitment to our cause,” says Cécile Arbaud, Executive Director of Dans la rue. “The youth are always pleased when they learn of the community’s involvement. It makes them feel a little less alone and it also provides them with hope.”

The work of Dans la rue has changed the lives of countless vulnerable youth in the city.
Michel Plessis-Bélair
Member of the Donations Committee
Power Corporation