He was the epitome of a Good Samaritan, someone whose name was synonymous with Montreal and assisting those who were down and out. Father Emmett Johns, founder of Dans la rue, died Saturday at the age of 89. The passing was announced by the organization.
Father Johns was better-known by his nickname, “Pops.” His life’s work brought him through many experiences, but it was at age 60, after nearly 40 years as parish priest, when he felt helpless and considered committing suicide, that he was inspired by a Toronto man who helped the homeless in his motor home.
In 1988, Father Johns bought a used vehicle with a $10,000 loan and began walking the streets of downtown Montreal at night until 4 a.m., four days a week. He started Dans la rue the same year, with a goal of trying to help curb homelessness and at-risk youth. “Pops” and his trailer soon became regulars in Montreal’s night scene. It was a place where young people could find shelter, food and an attentive ear.
He spent a lifetime fighting against homelessness in Montreal. “Many of their problems are the same as I have lived, I live,” he said. “I still have depression, in addition to my Parkinson’s and a lot of young people have this problem. So I can sympathize.”
Father Johns was most definitely a voice for the youth. “My heart is full of hope for these youth. I know very well that there are limits to what I can do. I can’t save them all. But when I think of Lise, Johnny, Daniel, Molly and so many others, I realize that after every dark and difficult night – even the worst ones – there is a new day and a morning filled with hope.”
The evolution of Dans la rue “was guided by Johns’ philosophy of dedication, empathy and respect,” reads a Facebook post announcing his death.