Emmett JOHNS

Emmett JOHNS

2002 Social Social

“Thank you to all those who believed in me, who never doubted I would make it and who encouraged me throughout. The reason I’m where I am today is because of Dans la rue and all those who back this cause.” This moving testimonial is from Keena, a young mother who experienced the pain and loneliness of the street and who is today an executive secretary in the legal affairs department of a multinational corporation.

Bon Dieu dans la rue’s approach is underpinned by friendship and respect of human dignity. The community-based organization provides shelter, a listening ear and support to street kids and at-risk youth. Father Johns and his team help these young people build independence and live up to their potential.

Born in 1928 to Irish parents, Emmett Johns grew up on the Plateau Mont-Royal. After 36 years as a parish priest in various Montréal communities, Father Johns finally found his true calling as a missionary in 1988 when he ventured into Montréal’s streets in his van in search of homeless youths in need of comfort and support. 

Since then, the Bon Dieu dans la rue van has made 240,000 rounds and more than 70 volunteers offer their time to the organization. Over the years and with the support of thousands of donors, Emmett Johns was able to broaden services, beginning with the Bunker, an overnight shelter that has housed almost 1,300 kids since opening its doors in December 1993, and followed by a day centre called Chez Pops, launched in November 1997 and offering a wide range of activities, including math and language instruction, a phys-ed  program – with the help of Cirque du Soleil –, an on-site psychologist, medical care and a workforce integration program.

Father Emmett Johns, or Pops as he is affectionately called by the street kids he helps, is building an impressive heritage for Montréal and an incredible tool to fight youth poverty and exclusion.

In December 2001, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse awarded Father Johns the Rights and Freedoms Prize for his profound commitment to defending the rights of street kids. This prestigious prize was preceded by the Humanitarian Award, received from the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec (1998) and the Award of Excellence from the Montréal Urban Community’s police department (1999).

The founder of Bon Dieu dans la rue also received an honorary doctorate from Concordia University in 1997, the Anne-Greenup Citizenship Award in 1998, and the Desjardins’ Youth Assistance Award in 1999.

In 1998, Father Emmett Johns made Maclean’s Honour Roll and in 2000 was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada.

Photo Credit : Dans la rue