Saturday, April 7, 2012

Observations Part 2: Sleep Programs

Shelters (Sleep Programs):
          The main distinction between shelters is if clients are allowed access while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Shelters which allow the intoxicated (under the influence of drugs or alcohol) have harm reduction designated sleep areas. I have never seen a shelter exclusively dedicated to harm reduction.  All common areas of the building are shared by all populations. Shelters which do not allow intoxicated people, do however allow clients in a state of withdrawal, or unmedicated, so the designation of “DRY” in no way reduces the level of chaos within the shelter environment.
         The rules around shelter use are meant to manage large numbers of people and equally important to provide the necessary “head count” for funding application to various levels of government. First you must stand in line sometimes for more than an hour to ensure you get a bed. Often these lines are outside the building where anyone driving by might see you. Once signed in your movements are restricted to specific areas and specific times. You are required to turn in personal property regardless of any consideration for your ability to manage your behaviour. Your work tools or personally purchased aspirins must all be accessed through the office and often on a limited schedule. Many places do not allow food in the dorm areas…so anything you bring in for yourself is unsecured in a publicly accessed kitchen area. Other places allowed no outside food at all… you eat only what is provided exactly when it is provided. You get up when you are told, leave when you are told (regardless of your mental or physical condition) and are allowed to return when you are told you can return. In most shelters personal property can be searched and seized by staff (something as innocuous as a nail-clipper can be seized as a weapon), a necessary evil in the current shelter system with our blended populations.
         Harm Reduction areas, for clients under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are designed more for safety than comfort. Matts placed on the floor or low lying cots prevent serious injury from falling out of bed. As much space as possible is allowed between matts so the staff or paramedics can respond to client emergencies. Clients’ belongs are kept next to their matt and carried in and out with them each day… only a handful of places provide storage for this group. Bag searches our done regularly… with smaller population everyone is searched both entering and leaving the facility.
        Transient beds are issued on a nightly basis for clients who are clean & sober… today. The smell of body oder, urine prevelant in Harm Reduction is decidedly less conspicuous in transient areas. A little more attention is paid to comfort here, with beds or bunks replacing matts. Clients do NOT have assigned beds; one must line-up and sign in each night and there is some storage available to regular users over the short term.        
 Transitional sleep programs are open to persons who return to the facility clean & sober on a regular basis. The bed is yours until you miss curfew, this varies from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. depending on the facility. The advantage for the facility, of these quasi permanent beds; is the reduction in laundry, sheets need only be changed weekly. You are allowed to leave your property behind during the day and some shelters even have lockers to secure your belongings. This is a great benefit to client who have to keep appointments with professionals to assist in moving forward out of the shelter and back into the community. Lockers can always be accessed by staff and searched for contraband (a reasonable expectation). 
I cannot believe how hard it is to separate observations from conclusions and recommendation; it all kinda runs together in my head. This is just the first draft so I will continue with this format .... for now. Who knows what the final product will look like. If you have any thoughts or suggestions I am always happy to hear from you. It is all about creating a concise and readable report.
Have a joyous day my friends. 

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