Rules and regulations at formal shelters have to be flexible when it comes to getting hard-core homeless people off our streets once the weather turns cold.
I’m glad that conclusion has finally been reached by the social service experts at Waterloo Region — the people who are now grappling with the potential closure of Out of the Cold shelters.
Out of the Cold currently has four sites closing their doors because of a variety of issues and the dreamboat response to those closures seems to be that this might be a positive development because it means street people will automatically go to formal emergency shelters.
But, in the past, administrative and behavioural rules have deterred homeless people with addiction or mental health issues from going to these shelters when beds are available.
Until now, there has been zero tolerance at shelters for homeless people drinking alcohol or taking drugs but, according to Sean Strickland, chairman of the region’s social-services committee, there’s a good chance such rules could be relaxed.
Strickland shares my concern about making certain the hard-core homeless who reject formal shelters have somewhere acceptable to sleep when the winter arrives.
He also has the political courage to say that, in order to help those suffering from addictions, we might have to establish a “wet” shelter. Toronto already has such a facility where, under carefully controlled circumstances, addicts are given one or two drinks to help them accept shelter and get through the night.
I’m glad to say such a program would be linked to a variety of support services and efforts to provide transitional housing.