A Montreal bar owner made quite an impression this week when he announced the creation of a coalition of business owners to combat homelessness in the downtown.
In an article on the CBC about the coalition, Peter Sergakis, owner of Station des Sports and Sky Bar, among other bars, was made to appear as though he was waging “war on homeless people” and that he was only out for his own interests.
A frustrated Sergakis spoke to Forget the Box today, denying any war on homeless people.
“It’s not a war,” he said. “Those people [the homeless] need help and we have to provide for them. I am declaring war maybe on the government of Quebec. I haven’t heard a word from all of the [politicians] when I press the issue because they don’t get votes from them.
Asked to describe in detail what he hopes to do with his coalition, Sergakis says he will announce plans in a couple weeks after members have a chance to meet. One of the major functions of the group will be to raise funds to donate to various organizations that work with homeless people.
Herman Alves, an associate of Sergakis, said that they are looking into holding fundraisers one day a year at all six Station des Sports in Montreal area. All money made on these days will be put toward the coalition.
“I really believe that the homeless [steal food] because they are hungry—so lets give them food,” he said. “Lets feed them on a daily basis so they don’t have to steal or take things from the tourists.”
Word of Sergakis’s empathy for homeless people was a surprise to Dorothy Massimo, director of development and communications at Dans la Rue, an organization that supports homeless people in Montreal.
“Wow, that’s very, very, very different from what he said [in previous interviews],” Massimo said upon hearing about Sergakis’s plans.
“If we have this very influential business person who wants to work side by side with us to eliminate the problem […] it would be an amazing force. I welcome a call from him. I would love to sit at the table with him,” she said.
Sergakis said he would like to see Dans la Rue be open 24 hours a day, five days a week, to help with the homeless people he says are harassing customers on his terraces.
Though Massimo agrees that having Dans la Rue open 24 hours would be beneficial to the community, she says that it would take way more money than they currently receive as donations from individuals—their main source of revenue.
She also cautions against pushing the homeless away from downtown.
“If you push them farther away, then the situation is just going to get worse,” she said.
“It’ll work for the summer to get them away from the terraces, and the problem will look like it’s solved. If [Sergakis] is really looking for a long-term solution, I suggest he work with the community that is providing those services to the homeless.”
* Look for a full video interview with Sergakis and others this Tuesday on Forget The Box.