From Bone Dry to Downright Soggy: Variations in Alcohol Policy in Shelters

When shelters are considering their policies regarding alcohol use it is not as binary as dry or wet. There are variations in between. With each of the variations come considerations that impact either the program participant or the staff within the shelter – or both! So, I put together this handy table to guide you through four variations of alcohol policies and the considerations that come with each.

 

Category Description Consider This…
Bone Dry ·      Zero tolerance policy

 

·      Test of breath or urine for alcohol consumption

·      No admittance if found to have consumed

·      Individuals with alcoholism are very unlikely to use the shelter

 

·      Individuals may still consume alcohol, but in ways that are not easily detected (anal, vaginal or ocular consumption – for example)

Damp ·      Focus is on behaviour, not on use

 

·      Any person found using is most often instructed to go to bed

·      No storage on site

·      No provision of alcohol

·      Individuals may binge in order to finish bottle before entry

 

·      Staff benefit from training on directing guests that are intoxicated

·      Built form and furniture should be conducive to stumbles, falls, and easy clean-up of bodily fluids

Wet ·      Focus is on behaviour, not on use

 

·      Individuals can bring bottle to shelter so long as it is stored upon entry (no consumption on site), and it is returned upon exit

·      May have “crash” cots or mats for very intoxicated individuals

·      Policies need to be put into place and storage is required for guest alcohol

 

·      Harm reduction to broader community and decreased engagement with emergency resources

·      Built form and furniture should be conducive to stumbles, falls, and easy clean-up of bodily fluids

·      Staff benefit from enhanced training on first aid, falls, and alcohol related illnesses

·      Staff benefit from enhanced training on providing direction to guests

Managed Alcohol Programs (Downright Soggy) ·      Focus is on behaviour, not on use

 

·      Individuals are provided a drink by shelter staff at predetermined intervals (usually one per hour of 1.5 hours) so that supervised consumption occurs on-site

·      Participants are monitored for impact of consumption and can be “cut off” at discretion of shelter staff

·      Participants are not permitted to consume their own alcohol inside or outside of the facility if participating in the managed alcohol program

·      Should be medically supervised or directed

 

·      Significant health improvements of guests, as well as significant decreases with law enforcement and other public disorder

·      Can be public outrage of giving alcohol to people that have alcoholism

·      Built form and furniture should be conducive to stumbles, falls, and easy clean-up of bodily fluids

·      Staff benefit from enhanced training on first aid, falls, and alcohol related illnesses

·      Staff benefit from enhanced training on providing direction to guests

·      Staff can expect to help escort guests back to room, cot or mat

·      Can be difficult to get guests to leave shelter and move into housing where alcohol is not provided on regular intervals

 

Lest you think some of these are far-fetched (Really? Managed alcohol programs?) I thought you might like more information on both wet and downright soggy programs…academic, large city, and mid-size community examples all included!

 

Some academic research with links from the University of Victoria: http://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/publications/map/index.php

 

Shepherds of Good Hope Managed Alcohol Program: http://shepherdsofgoodhope.com/about-us/programs/managed-alcohol-program-map/

 

Seaton House Annex Program: http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=ac2baf2c85006410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

 

Shelter House Thunder Bay: http://www.shelterhouse.on.ca/article/kwae-kii-win-managed-alcohol-centre-497.asp

 

Alpha House Society (which co-locates a detox and a wet shelter): http://alphahousecalgary.com

 

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About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.


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