The outreach organization Dans la rue proudly unveiled their new renewable natural gas-fuelled van on Wednesday, May 18 at Place Emmett-Johns: see here. An inaugurational event was mounted to introduce the new van and the other services offered by the organization: see here.
Archbishop Lépine was guest speaker at the event. The founder of Dans la rue, Fr. Emmett Johns (1928-2018), known affectionately as ‘Pops,’ was a priest in the diocese of Montreal. Thirty-four years ago, at the age of 60, Pops began devoting his energies - and a van purchased on credit - to the service of young people. And thus was born the presence of the “Bon Dieu” in the streets. The most recently inaugurated van is the sixth since the early days when this same priest, who is commemorated with his picture along one side of the van, first began his work of outreach among the young people living in the streets of Montreal. And today the organization he founded still keeps that “Bon Dieu” in its business name.
Master of ceremonies Jean-Marie Lapointe gave a tribute to Pops’s humility, his simplicity and generosity. During his meetings in connection with the program “Face à la rue” (‘Facing the street’), Mr. Lapointe remembered many of the testimonials that came up. One of Pops’s questions that had stood out for many of those who remember him was, “Do you love yourself?”
“He was a man of courage, a man of action,” added Mrs. Josefina Blanco of the Ville de Montréal, who also mentioned the emphasis that the City places on the issue of the street people and its support for the organizations dedicated to assisting them.
Archbishop Lépine commended the genius and the simplicity that Pops had displayed with his heartfelt gesture that captured the attention of so many. The Archbishop also reminded those gathered how Pops would say to people with the conviction of his whole being, “It’s good that you’re alive;” no matter what, it’s good that you’re alive.
This is a mentality and these are words that change lives:
- Two of the organization’s board members, Bernd Beyer and Robert Dumas, representing respectively upper management of CN and Sun Life, were moved by the spirit that guides the organization;
- Verdun city counsellor Sterling Downey stated that he himself had been a teenager when he first came to know Fr. Johns, without whose influence his life could easily have taken a darker path. Downey has always remained committed to the cause of youth;
- Founder of Notre-Dame-de-la-Rue, Fr. Claude Paradis, also recognized Pops’s role in mentoring him.
The challenges are still enormous. Dans la rue Director Cécile Arbaud points to some worrisome statistics according to which 20 to 30% of those who leave youth centres end up on the streets. Ensuring that these young people do not get trapped in the condition of homelessness is a major concern.
The Archbishop, standing before a group assembled in front of the van, blessed the new vehicle to the service of the “Bon Dieu.” The following five stops make up the service’s normal schedule:
TIMETABLE OF THE DANS LA RUE VAN – NIGHTLY EXCEPT TUESDAYS AND SATURDAYS
Morgan and Ste-Catherine: 8:15 to 8:45 p.m.
Langelier Metro Station: 9:00 to 9:15 p.m.
Frontenac Metro Station: 9:30 to 10:10 p.m.
Mont-Royal and Saint-Hubert: 10:45 to 11:15 p.m.
Berri and De Maisonneuve: 11:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.