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Montreal's Journal L'Itinéraire celebrates 30 years of helping those in need

Jean-Guy Deslauriers has been selling Journal L'Itinéraire for 15 years. The Montreal magazine supports those in need of assistance.  (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC - image credit)
Jean-Guy Deslauriers has been selling Journal L'Itinéraire for 15 years. The Montreal magazine supports those in need of assistance. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC - image credit)

Jean-Guy Deslauriers remembers the very day he started selling the Montreal magazine Journal L'Itinéraire.

It was Nov. 26, 2009. The magazine was in its 15th year back then, and in the 15 years since, he has developed strong connections with the community, he said. So much so that he doesn't consider his customers to be clients.

"They've become friends," he said. "They are a part of my life. They share a lot with me about their personal life. There's trust."

Those behind the Journal L'Itinéraire celebrated its 30th anniversary with a party Tuesday and the publication of a special edition of the magazine which, since 1994, has been sold by those in precarious living or financial situations.

It provides a means of income for them, and it helps break isolation. At the same time, revenue from the magazine supports the organization, L'Itinéraire, which provides a wide range of social services, such as food relief, mentoring, workshops and housing support.

Josée Panet-Raymond, editor-in-chief since 2015, described the bimonthly magazine as a labour of love that gives a voice to the voiceless.

While about half of the magazine's content is written by in-house writers, much is produced by the vendors themselves, she said.

The vendors write everything from small testimonials to full-blown articles, and there are training programs available for those who want to progress in their writing, she said.

"It gives them a sense of pride, but also it's a tool for advancement in life. They learn work ethic. They learn about deadlines," she said.

Josée Panet-Raymond is editor-in-chief of Journal L'Itinéraire.
Josée Panet-Raymond is editor-in-chief of Journal L'Itinéraire.

Josée Panet-Raymond is editor-in-chief of Journal L'Itinéraire. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC)

Beyond that, she explained, it further improves their connection with the community as people recognize them for not only selling the magazine but also for producing some of the content within.

"It opens up a dialogue," she said, describing it as a way to break down prejudices about those in precarious living situations.

While digital copies of the magazine are available for sale, the aim is to remain a print-based media as the magazine does so much for those involved in its production and sale, Panet-Raymond said.

Chris Brown works at the Roundhouse Café in Montreal's Cabot Square. The cafe is run by L'Itinéraire, a non-profit group.
Chris Brown works at the Roundhouse Café in Montreal's Cabot Square. The cafe is run by L'Itinéraire, a non-profit group.

Chris Brown works at the Roundhouse Café in Montreal's Cabot Square. The cafe is run by L'Itinéraire, a non-profit group. (CBC)

Among those services is the Roundhouse Café which, situated in Cabot Square, offers employment opportunities to Indigenous people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk.

Chris Brown told CBC News that he was hired to work in the café, and it helped him on his road to recovery from alcoholism and homelessness.

"We work hard to get off the street," he said. He encourages people to buy the magazine and continue to support the organization.

Lynn Champagne has been selling Journal L'Itinéraire in the borough of Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve for about four years. She stands in front of a Jean Coutu pharmacy on Ontario Street, she said.

Lynn Champagne said she has been involved with L'Itinéraire for a total of seven and a half years.
Lynn Champagne said she has been involved with L'Itinéraire for a total of seven and a half years.

Lynn Champagne said she has been involved with L'Itinéraire for a total of seven and a half years. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC)

She said she has come to know many people while working there, and she has received a lot of help from them as well. She enjoys the challenge of selling the magazine, staying professional and dedicated even when she's not feeling up to the task.

She said she had been experiencing homelessness for years, but finally found a room in January. Unfortunately, she said, it's on the South Shore — not where she would like to live.

"But it's a roof. I am just happy to have a roof right now," she said.

And, she added, she's happy to have a job selling the magazine. It breaks her isolation, gets her socializing and helps her develop job skills, she said.

"I get to become like a blooming flower in the spring," said Champagne. "They give me a new reason to accept life and all its challenges every day."