Only police can get intoxicated people out of the cold. What about in other cities?
Winnipeg police are the only civil service members who have the authority to remove an intoxicated person from the street and bring them out of the cold.
Other major cities in Canada have mobile outreach programs to monitor vulnerable people, especially when winter temperatures fall. These programs and organizations are able to offer people reprieve from the cold -- even when shelters are full -- or alert police of others who may be reluctant to accept help when they need it.
EGADZ, also based in Saskatoon, is a youth drop-in center. But EGADZ also runs a mobile outreach program, which has provided vulnerable individuals -- specifically youth -- with clothing, food, counselling or referral to emergency housing or detox for 23 years. During the week, EGADZ provides their street services from 9:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. On Saturdays EGADZ's hours are 5 P.M. to 1 A.M. and 4 P.M. to 12 A.M. on Sundays. On a typical night, EGADZ serves between 40-100 people.
EGADZ executive director, Don Meikle, says when weather gets dangerous, EGADZ staff have a cold-weather strategy.
"When the wind chill hits anywhere near -30, and we get someone coming up to our van needing services, we'll always make sure that person has a way to get to a shelter," said Meikle.
Usually, Meikle says EGADZ staff won't transport a person who is too intoxicated to comply, but when temperatures drop around -30, that's a different story.
"Our staff don't want to see someone found in the morning because they didn't get a ride to a safe shelter," he said. "We won't hold anyone down, but we'll do whatever we need (to get them somewhere safe)."
Meikle says there are many other Saskatoon shelters that are more accomodating when it gets cold.
"We all as a community have come together and created a response," he said.
The Saskatoon Lighthouse Mobile Outreach program is one of those organizations. It operates 16 hours/day and will send a van out whenever someone calls to report an individual who appears to be intoxicated or in distress. Lighthouse Mobile Outreach transports homeless and/or intoxicated individuals to the Lighthouse shelter or to other necessary support services.
The Alpha House Society Downtown Outreach Addictions Program (DOAP) facilitates vulnerable citizens' access to resources like shelters, warm winter gear and information on the risks and dangers of drug use. DOAP team members stay on call all hours of the day, transporting vulnerable people to warm shelters or hospitals in the DOAP van.
The DOAP team has been active for 11 years, and a large part of their work with Calgary's vulnerable individuals is relationship-based. The DOAP team knows many of their clients from having interacted with them on a regular basis.
"Someone can be difficult with police, then we'll show up and they know us well," said Alpha House outreach and housing location manager, Adam Melnyk. "At that point their behaviour can change drastically. We build up a good reputation."
The DOAP team averages about 52 transports a day. They gave rides to over 20,000 individuals last year alone. In the winter months, transporting becomes even more crucial, says Melnyk.
"In Calgary we have kind of a compassion rule for when it hits under -10. There are rules around people that wouldn't nomally be allowed in the shelter, but that should kind of disappear (when it's that cold)."
Melnyk says the DOAP team works in collaboration with other emergency and social services to ensure any vulnerable individual gets to the safe space that is right for them.
Boyle Street Community Services runs a bus through Edmonton, which serves as a mobile drop-in centre. People can get on the bus free of charge and stay whenever they're in need of a safe, warm place.The Boyle Street Community bus service has been running during the winter months for 12 years. People who board the Boyle Street Community bus can access first aid, food and outerwear on it, too.
One bus in Montreal circulates downtown and other inner city areas whose populations are vulnerable to issues like substance abuse and homelessness. The organization l'Anonyme runs the bus, and calls it "proximity intervention." The role of the bus is mainly preventative, getting youth off the street and giving them education on safe sex practices and the risks of substance abuse. L'Anonyme bus also has nurses on board at all times for basic medical care.
Published: December 13th, 2016
- Posted By: Rebecca Dahl - Winnipeg Free Press
- Comments: 0