Maxime Bonneau, Jess Albayrak, Alexandra Thibault and their team of street workers at Pact de Rue are dedicated to helping the young in many neighborhoods in Montréal … and in Park Extension, Jess Albayrak keeps a close eye on those in desperate need of help and support
Pact De Rue has been around since 1991; they are about to celebrate thirty years of influence, helping a community in need, or rather those in the community that need help, guidance and support. Specifically, they help adolescents aged 12 to 25, through what they call “street work” with any difficulty they may be going through. They also offer clinical support when needed, yearly orientation and different types of training programs to help their street workers develop their skills further. Their specific fields of specialization include: Those suffering from drug abuse, violence and delinquency, sexual health (contraception and sexually transmitted infections), relationships, school dropouts and society dropouts, among other demographics across the board.
When I walked in to the site on De Gaspe, a warmth overwhelmed me. Once I crested those stairs up to the upper floor of the building and made it through the threshold, I knew that a profile on this place was necessary, if not to simply cover something for the paper, to convey to the community that there are certainly those that care deeply about what happens to those members of the younger community without a home, without direction. If it wasn’t the Christmas tree I saw at the center of their main room, then it was the people I met, Jess Albayrak and Alexandra Thibault. We sat down and they filled me in on what got them there, the operation and why they do what they do.
The work being done
“Essentially, the street worker is a social worker whose job involves taking action directly on the field, to serve as a bridge between the kids having problems, the neighborhood and the traditional help networks which are available to them (community organizations, CLSCs, hospitals, homeless shelters, job resource centers etc..”
For the longest time they were strictly doing street work, but recently this year, they started the day center, which was proposed to help, to have a place where the troubled youth could go for help and some reprieve from the world outside and all the troubles that surrounded them. It does stand as such, but the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly presented a problem with restrictions on gatherings, but they are making it work … the location I visited—their main and only location—was tricked out with all the necessities: hand sanitizers everywhere I looked, Plexiglas separations set up across tables and even between cushion seats. They take safety very seriously there; as seriously as they take their dedication to the troubled youth.
Supervisor, Maxime Bonneau has been at this for quite some time and he has assembled a team of about 12 street workers and a few on-site workers, making for quite the smooth operation and a place where at least ten people can gather for support and help at a time. I sat down with street worker Jess Albayrak and her colleague, Alexandra Thibault, who has been at this for seven months and is dedicated to sticking around and doing some good work with Pact de Rue.
Hopes for the future
They have so much planned … specifically, they want to hold movie nights, even Friday cook nights, where they can help people who come to the center with food they collected at local donations and help them cook it and leave with a warm meal, and with winter approaching, a place like that is something they will definitely need.
There are also always social workers at the De Gaspe site, to help people with whatever they need, even looking for work.
Pact de Rue works in many neighborhoods in Montréal. Some to note are: Villeray, St. Michel, St. Leonard, Rosemont and even Mercier. But it is Jess Albayrak that has the responsibility to cover Park Extension. She’s been working with this organization for two years, in Park Ex for over a year and she’s definitely recognizable by those that need her help and support. She wanted to work in Park Ex, specifically since she was hired, seeing that there was definitely a need in that neighborhood and she took to the responsibility with a dedication that can clearly be seen when meeting her and on her social media posts—a person who definitely doesn’t turn off the dedication when her shifts are over.
She used to work as a peer worker and when she was in Park Ex, handing out fliers with Médecins du Monde, that was when she fell in love with the neighborhood … the multiculturalism, the smells in the streets. “The people are super-nice,” she states, her eyes smiling brightly over her mask.
She worked at “Pops”—Dans La Rue— for a while; before that she worked in the bar service industry, tending and waiting tables, but it was a friend that suggested she’d be great at this kind of work, and thus began her career as a peer worker, the organizations she started with training her and helping her get to where she is today.
Park Extension is definitely her beat and trust and believe that she is there for the community, with a dedication that is certainly awesome to see.
She is often at Place de la Gare Park and of the conditions of the park (which I reported on recently), she said that she hopes that they can get bathrooms set in place, drinking water and hopefully a covering for the table area to shade from rain and/or harsh sun.
When asked if her background of living on the streets helped her with the work she does today, she said: “It definitely helps. Valuable information to have, for sure.”
When asked what her three year plan is, she laughed and joked at first but in all seriousness, she would love to continue working in this field for quite a few years still, ultimately seeing herself settling somewhere in Mexico—her penchant for travel is evident and comes across in who she is. I certainly wish her the best with her plans, as she has helped many people and will definitely help quite a few more in the future, we’re sure in Park Ex, and Pact de Rue, all over the areas they reach. If there’s someone out there that needs help or for more information on Pact de Rue, check out their site: http://www.pactderue.org/en/accueil/