Founded in Montréal in 1877 by Joseph Vincent
A wealthy business man, in collaboration with the Grey Nuns, the Société Saint-Vincent de Paul and the Sulpicians, the Hospice Saint-Charles (Accueil Bonneau’s former name) was open day and night to men and women experiencing homelessness.
However, as the neighbourhood was being developed, the Hospice was destroyed, after which a new assistance service, the Fourneau économique, was created to provide help to people in need. Located on Champ-de-Mars Street, this service operated until 1904. Through the perseverance of the Société Saint-Vincent de Paul and the Grey Nuns, the Vestiaire des Pauvres opened its doors in 1904 on de la Commune Street (formerly des Commissaires Street) and offered a full range of services to people experiencing homelessness.
In 1971, the Vestiaire des Pauvres was renamed Accueil Bonneau as a tribute to Sister Rose-de-Lima Bonneau, the sister in charge of running the Vestiaire from 1909 to 1934.
Updating our services
In the 1970s, Accueil Bonneau had to adapt its services to meet the changing needs of its clientele and the substantial increase in drug and alcohol addiction. The organization was incorporated, set up a board of directors, and continued to operate its meal services in addition to providing social and health services, social reaffiliation programs, and housing services to help people experiencing homelessness get off the street.
“Together we will rebuild!”
On June 9, 1998, a gas leak caused an explosion that destroyed the building housing Accueil Bonneau.
The fire killed a nun, two volunteers, and wounded about twenty people.
In the space of two minutes, I was faced with an apocalyptic image. It was like I was transported to a parallel universe. I had the impression I was watching a disaster movie, a remake of the bombing of Beirut. Emotions were high, we didn’t know what to do: cry, console, or be consoled. The concept of time disappeared. Still high on adrenaline, I went back to Accueil Bonneau the next day not knowing what to expect. As if it was the most natural thing, everyone showed up ready to work and got organized: it was the rebirth of Accueil Bonneau.
Seeing everyone, worried, disappointed, sad, I had the impression I was on the verge of breaking down, and then, gradually I felt as though one word could unite us all: REBUILD.
Today, Accueil Bonneau opens its doors to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness every day, supports them in meeting their basic needs, and guides them on their path to social reaffiliation and housing stability.