Relaxing the regulations at homeless shelters

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.

This entry was posted in Homelessness, Low-Cost Housing. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Relaxing the regulations at homeless shelters

  1. Anita Nickerson says:

    I support this – both some flexibility with the Out of the Cold and shelter rules and a “wet” shelter. Some of the “hard core” homeless have intractable addiction problems combined with mental health problems – if they could just stop drinking and drugging on demand to get into Out of the Cold, they wouldn’t be in the situation to need Out of the Cold to begin with. I’m sure the Out of the Cold workers, compassionate realists, are already somewhat flexible in practice with their rules when someone needing shelter is on their doorstep. they have to balance different things – not wanting to turn people away with the need to make sure staff and others using the shelters are safe. It can’t be easy. If we need a “wet shelter” then so be it. We need to develop services to meet people where they are at, rather than turn them away.

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