Monday, September 29, 2008


I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I've opened the new post window several times lately will all intentions of posting something awesome, and it just hasn't happened. But it will, it will.

I've been quite overwhelmed lately... Best Friend moved halfway across the country yesterday, and getting her ready to go meant me being up for a long time running. And of course, I'm very sad that she's gone. It hasn't completely sunk in yet.

Work is the steady thing in my life, I don't mind work, although the enforcer and I are still having our difficulties. That doesn't surprise me though, I believe it will take time, and my normal supervisor should be back from holidays today! I may be able to work in detox tonight, and just take a bit of "me" time in the quiet. That would be nice. I've been meaning to, and it just hasn't happened, when I come home, I tend to go straight to sleep!

Having my cat is awesome though, she's so cute and cuddly. She sleeps with me every night. Tomorrow I'll head to yoga, which will be a good way to get out and get some exercise, and then I have bible study at night. So I have plans, and so even though staying in bed with the cat seems most appealing, I will get out and do stuff!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Drunk Tank Ethics

Mr. nice guy and the enforcer got in an argument a few nights ago. It's a common discussion, but things got pretty heated with both of them saying that management was on their "side". I've never heard mr. nice guy be so outspoken about something, but I was very glad he was. Here is the basic scenario.

When someone comes into the drunk tank we hold them between 4 and 24 hours, it's at our discretion of when they are safe for release into the community again. Between midnight and six in the morning, clients have to sign an extra form saying they are aware of the risk of leaving in the middle of the night in a bad part of town, and that they want to go anyway. Here's where things get complicated. What happens when someone doesn't want to go? What if we know that they have absolutely no place to go, the shelter's full, and the weather is horrible. What if IPDA is full, and we have police outside waiting. What do we do with these people?

This particular night, the shelter was full, but the drunk tank wasn't. There were people who'd been there quite a while, but they were people who had no place to go, and it was POURING rain. The enforcer tried to make mr. nice guy kick them out, and he wouldn't. He said, "they don't want to go, they have no place to go". The enforcer said, they've been here 8 hours, they're sober, they get a phone call, and the buses are still running. Mr. nice guy said, these people have no money, no one to phone, no where to go. The enforcer said, that's their problem. What happens if we fill up and have a back log.

See, the drunk tank is funded by the city, not our organization. So, us shelter sober people, just cause we know they have no place to go is kind of, well, cheating, especially if the police have someone possibly dangerous or extremely disruptive that they need to bring in. The enforcer is worried that we will get a back log of 5 or more cars, and that the police supervisor will be calling and complaining, and since he's in charge, the buck stops with him. He says he's discussed this with management.

Mr. nice guy says that we cannot release people who don't want to go, and then get them to sign a form that says they do. It's unethical. And, how do we release people to, well, nothing. The thing is, he's also working with situational ethics here, because if we were full, he would do the releases. But because we weren't, he was arguing his point. However, we can also argue, that if we were full in the drunk tank we would try to squish people into the shelter wherever we could find room. The enforcer is very black and white. He doesn't do situational ethics, at all, it's the principle of the situation. Mr nice guy has plenty of shades of grey and is able to adapt his practice to the situation, but should he?

I have to admit, I'm strongly on mr. nice guy's side, but of course, I'm biased in that I'm having issues with the enforcer. However, I've always been of the same position as mr. nice guy. It's an interesting issue, one that I hope management will continue to discuss.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

angry angry alligator

Work put me in a bad mood last night. I seem to be having constant clashes with the staff member who was upset with me for being too bossy the other night. Tonight was another example of this.

The person who was supposed to work in transitional housing called in sick. This supervisor, we'll call him, the enforcer, is trained to work there, but he was coordinating so he couldn't. Somehow everyone conveniently forgot that one of the other people on shift had been trained to be over there. When shift change came, the enforcer assigned me to work in transitional housing, so I said, not to the enforcer, but quietly to my friend, "haven't you been trained over there"? The enforcer heard, and shut me down right away. "That's the assignments, and that's that".

So tell me, how does that make sense? Why send someone with no training over there to "wing it" when you could have someone with training? I mean, I really didn't feel comfortable being over there, although things went okay with only a couple minor mishaps. The enforcer wandered over an hour into my shift to "explain" things to me, leaving me with gaping holes I thankfully filled in for myself and with the help of some long time clients.

As the night progressed, I pondered the incident, and my reaction to it. I mean, I was MAD, far too mad for the situation. I mean, I almost started crying in shift change... That was about being shut down though, not about having to work in transitional housing. It was about frustration with the enforcer, and frustration with myself for not having kept my mouth SHUT as I had planned. I also pondered reasons he'd send me there, and did come up with some reasonable ones, such as the staff who has been trained was recently accused by another staff of saying something sexual to a client. Good reason not to want them alone all night. I'd like to think it's because he thinks he can trust me, but with the way things have been going... and of course, the insecure side of me says he did it just to be rid of me for the night.

I really am going to have to deal with this though. I'm having a hard time reading the enforcer, because he seems to blow over things so quickly. He'll shut me down one minute, and then later it's like nothing ever happened. When he came to explain things to me, he made it sound like he'd given me a great assignment, and maybe he thinks he did. I mean, I actually really liked it, being there wasn't what bothered me, it was his attitude. The problem is, my normal supervisors on holidays, so he's supervising five nights a week instead of two. I need to either keep my mouth SHUT or figure out a way to be appropriately assertive. I mean, tonight if I'd really been concerned, I should have said something like "I'm not comfortable being in charge of a 31 bed facility in which I have no training" or something equally professional. But instead, as soon as he gets upset, I shut down, and don't think of all my wonderful assertive things to say until later.

Sigh. I'm going to yoga in 15 minutes. Maybe that'll help me work through some of this, because I'm really frustrated.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

hot yoga

I don't know that I ever blogged about going to hot yoga, but I went about a month ago for the first time. It felt good, but the 90 minute class was also somewhat overwhelming. Yesterday, bestest bud and I went again, only this time to a different studio and a 60 minute class. It was awesome!

The new studio is only a block from my house and feels like it's a few degrees cooler, or at least less humid. It was a better temperature for me, and just felt healthier; so did going for only 60 minutes instead of 90. Hot yoga feels awesome and cleansing. I felt SO good when I was done! I'm a bit sore today, but not excessively so, and bestest bud and I are going back after church.

As usual, my mind is in over drive, and while I wasn't thinking about things too, too much during the class, afterward I was thinking about how wonderful it would be for my clients to have the same experience. There's something so cleansing and freeing about it. There are so many challenges to them having this experience though. Even if we found volunteer teachers, and a location, then you have to get people there, convince them they want to do it, convince them to drink water, to change their clothes, to shower, to be vulnerable, to do "stupid" poses. Hmmm. Things to ponder, things to ponder. Besides, if it's not something they want to do, how is it empowering?

Friday, September 19, 2008

bossy bear

My very first report card ever said that I was bossy, and the second one, and the third one, and well, lets just say that I was a pretty bossy child... I like to think I've grown up, that I'm a team player, that I can step back and let others be in control of things, and to an extent, I can, but when I'm tired, stressed or feeling under pressure, I still tend to be rather, well, bossy.

I got in trouble at work two nights ago for being bossy. I have to admit, I don't think the incident warranted the chewing out I got, but it made me open my eyes and begin to reflect on my attitudes and behaviours. I have to remind myself that I am NOT in charge, and that I am NOT always right. That of course, is hard. It's not even that I want to be in charge, or that I disrespect those in authority, it's just that sometimes I see a way to do something and just go ahead and either start doing it, or bypass my supervisor and start working it out with the other staff. I have been told I need to remember that people can come up with their own plans.

So now, I'm making an effort to watch my level of bossiness. I don't want to become totally passive either though, so we'll see, we'll see. I have a big mouth, and sometimes I just need to be just a little quieter...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Sophie Cat

At long last, here are the pictures of my new cat. She's awesome! She's at the vet tonight, so she can have her teeth cleaned tomorrow. Getting her in the cage involved a lot of howling and hissing, but I finally did it. She sleeps in my bed every day, and is usually sitting on it waiting for me when I come home. She doesn't however like getting her picture taken, but here's what I got.

Monday, September 15, 2008

a mild health care rant

Health care seems appropriate to rant about while I'm waiting for this season's first episode of House MD to download, alas, my guilty pleasures, medical dramas.

Anyway, I have this client, well, a lot of client's actually who have issues in our health care system, sort of like how, well, they have issues in our social and societal systems. A typical story might be something like this. It's time for a story, so imagine for me now, the following.

You are a person in your early sixties, life has been hard, and you have been broken in many ways. Your addictions are very encompassing, and you have very little social or family support. You get sick, but just keep trying to drink away the sick feeling, you're old, you're tired, who cares. Eventually, you're found passed out drunk somewhere and wind up in the emergency room where they tell you, you have - insert infection/condition here- and give you a prescription, and tell you to get some rest.

See but here's the thing. You never wind up filling your prescription, or you do, but you lose it. Or you go to the pharmacy, but find out your welfare benefits have been cut off, or you drop it off, but forget to pick it up, and then forget which pharmacy you brought it to in the first place. Oops. And so you stay sick. And it gets worse, and worse. You wind up at the hospital three times in two days, clogging up the emergency room and frustrating the medical staff. You're not sick enough to be admitted, if you would take your pills and get some rest, but the thing is, you're not going to do that. It's hard to find rest when you're kicked out of the shelter, so you wind up drinking, and spending the night in the drunk tank.

The people in the drunk tank are quite worried about you, and you tell them that you just want to die, that living like this isn't worth it. You've had it. Everything hurts, and you can't breath. And so, seeing as you're in obvious -pain, trouble, unable to breath - they call an ambulance to take you BACK to the hospital.

See where the problem is? The problem is not with the health care system itself necessarily, but on the after care and followup. How much money could be saved if there was a way to get people to take their medications. How much money could be saved if there was a safe, clean place for them to sleep. How much more still, if we invested money in the prevention of homelessness/addiction in the first place!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

beaten to death

A man was beaten to death just across from our shelter a couple nights ago. We didn't know what happened at first, just that there were 12 emergency vehicles out front. Having the police connections we do, we first found out that there had been a beating, and then later, that it was a murder - the man died in hospital.

An event like that puts everyone on edge. Do we know who it was? Do we know the person who did it? Answers are coming slowly. Word on the street gives us both the name of the victim, who was not one of our regulars, and the accused, who was. The media (although who can believe them) says the fight was over a cigarette, and that there were many involved. Apparently, the man who died was a nice gentle guy. People are upset, and understandably .

As for the accused, well, it's all speculation, but I would be inclined to believe it. The client is one I've gotten to know quite well, who has some serious anger issues. His body is riddle with knife marks and stab wounds, each on tells a story. He's been trying to detox, but returns to drinking within a couple days each time. When he's drinking, he's mean, and violent. It saddens me, but I believe the rumors could be true; only time will tell.

This is life on the street. Many people have warned me that the clients will die, and it will hurt. No one warned me that the clients will kill and it will hurt. It's interesting, and hard to imagine. I mean, I've known people who have killed, that just happens being where I am, but that's always been in the past, this is just so very present. I'm not hurting in the deeply disturbed keep me up all day sense or anything, I'm just...saddened? Maybe that's not the right word either. I'm... contemplative today, contemplative.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

big decisions

This has been the week of big decisions, big changes, and spending big money.

Change number one, is what's lying in bed beside me. No, I didn't buy myself a man, rather, I have acquired a cat named Sophie. At this exact moment she's scratching herself with her foot and shaking the bed.

Sophie is AWESOME! I adopted her from a pet store satellite of our local humane society. The poor thing was there for seven months because no one wanted her. So, I brought home an eight year old, long haired, seriously overweight cat who doesn't like children or other animals. Sophie spends most of her time hiding. Under the bed is her favourite, however she also likes under the futon, and in my closet. She sleeps in my bed with me, which is super cute.

Change two, is where my bed is. I moved on Saturday. Thank goodness for friends, moving sucks. I do like my new apartment though. It's smaller then the old one, but it has plenty of room for Sophie and I. It's a third story walk up, so I'm even getting some extra exercise out of the deal.

The final big change in my life, or rather, the big money grabber, is that I bought a car today. It's a brand new Pontiac wave, and it's definitely the biggest decision I've made in my entire life. Or well, biggest in terms of financialness. I can't believe how much money it's all going to cost! I'm pleased with it, and it gets to come home with me tomorrow. Great gas mileage though.

It's amazing how much something like a car costs, and yet how easy it is to take for granted. Cars are such an integral part of our modern society. Most social work jobs, at least here, require you to have one. At least the kind of social work where you are out on the streets dealing with people. I'm so rich, to be able to afford such a thing, and I by no means got an expensive car (although really, if i'd skipped some of the features, I could have had it cheaper). It just makes you think, about how much we really have.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

dear intoxicated person

Dear Intoxicated Person,

It has come to my attention that there are some issues we need to address. You've been getting upset a lot lately, and frankly, it's starting to get to me. Here are some basic ground rules to follow during your stay in the intoxicated persons detention area while being detained under the intoxicated persons detention act.

1. You do not have the right to a phone call. You will get one, I promise you, when you are released. Your lawyer does not want to hear from you at 4AM drunk, 75 year old mother doesn't want you to wake her up, and if your wife's the phone who phoned the police, well, she probably doesn't want to hear from you either.

2. We do not give out blankets. Blankets obstruct our view, and our job is to keep you safe, we have to be able to tell if you're breathing. No matter what you tell me, I will not give you a blanket.

3. I do rounds every fifteen minutes, this is when I will talk to you. No matter how many times you kick your door I will not come any sooner. Now, If you were to yell, "I'm having chest pains" or "I can't breath", that would be a different story, then, I would come very quickly, and help you.

4. On that note, if you tell me you're having chest pains, I WILL call and ambulance, and they WILL take you to the hospital, who has the option of sending you back if you're fine. Chest pains are not a get out of a jail free card although you will get that blanket you wanted...until you get back.

5. I am not opening your door to give you water, particularly if you're angry, violent, harassing and call me a bitch (or one of those million other things I've been called). That just doesn't work for me. If I have time, you're polite, and you've been there awhile, then I will consider opening that door.

6. If the police didn't get you a mat, it was for a reason. Chances are you were violent, or you have a history of shredding our mats. Or, maybe you were just the unlucky 18th, 19th or 20th person, and have to pay for the other people who've shredded our mat's mistakes. Whatever the reason, I'm still not opening the door to give you a mat no matter how hard you kick.

7. By law, I have to hold you 4 hours, even if I think you're stone cold sober. I have the right however, to hold you up to 24, and I cannot be sued, or charged for this. IPDA is busy, with people constantly in and out. I cannot guarantee when you'll be out, and it honestly depends a lot on you anyway. I will not let you out after 4 hours if I don't think you are ready.

8. Being from the suburbs does not make you better then the other people in there, in fact, many of them are from the suburbs as well. Telling me you're "not like them" will not raise my opinion of you. And, it won't get you out.

9. Type 2 diabetes is not a free ticket out of the drunk tank. Neither is arthritis. You knew you had these conditions, and yet you chose to drink to the point of high intoxication. I don't feel sorry for you. you made your choice.

10. I will not let you kill yourself, but if you did, it is not my fault, even if you tell me it is. See the thing is, if you're trying to kill yourself, I will get the police to take away all objects in your room, including your bra, socks, and clothes if necessary.

So there you have it IPDA, behave, I see drunk people every day, I'm not making an exception for you.

Love from,

The girl who locks you up.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Trauma can take many forms, something important to remember as social workers and other professionals. Sometimes, things can even be more traumatic for the person who witnessed the event then the one who experienced it. People deal with trauma in different ways, and there's no one right way to deal with it. I, like to write, and so, I'm going to write, even though what happened turned out to be okay.

So I have this guy I'm discharging from the drunk tank. He's taking FOREVER on the phone. Everyone gets a phone call, but seriously, somethings are just ridiculous. So after 10 minutes, he's STILL on the phone, and I need to move on to the next discharge.

So my supervisor, my favourite one starts down the stairs. He's 64, and has a lot of problems with his ankles, pain, swelling, trouble walking sometimes. Lots of things. He's on the side by the wall. It's a half flight of stairs, but as he takes his second step, his ankle buckles and he starts to fall, and there's nothing I can do but watch. It was like it happened in slow motion, as his body hit the safe, breaking the key off in the lock, as his head smacked into the hard metal lockers and his side struck the metal grips on the steps. And the IPDA just kept on talking, as if nothing was going on.

I say his name, as my coworker runs from upstairs, it was a loud crash. I tell him not to move, that I need to stabalize his neck and spine. He's at a funny angle, but consious. And what does he do, he moves, heavy breathing, gasping, asking me to help him get his shoe back on. Don't move I say, we need to stabalize your spine, you fell at a funny angle. And what does he do? He yells at the IDPA who says "what, it's not my fault" and just keeps on talking. My other coworker comes from detox. He helps me kick out the IDPA, and then turns his attention to my supervisor who will NOT stay still, let alone let me stabalize him. He wants up, so we help him sit up, encourage ice, and try to assess the situation. As if he'll let us put an ice pack anywhere, despite the fact that it hurts. He's a bit disoriented too.

We help him up the stairs, call an ambulance, and then wait. We call the manager on call. Get the lecture "don't move anything" (as in the scene, so we can "investigate"), and then we wait. I run back and forth between doing checks in IPDA, and watching my supervisor. We're short staffed, and there just aren't enough of us. I want to clean his cut, but I have police downstairs, work must go on, and so thankfully, the ambulance comes. As the sole witness, I have to talk to them, and then the three of us staff, and the two paramedics have to convince him to go to the hospital. Easier said then done. My supervisor is STUBORN!

Ambulance leaves, I realize that if I'm not careful, I'll have a bad adrenaline crash. I don't know what it is about me, but I have horrible adrenaline reactions, and I know it, so I start chugging water, it's supposed to help. Then the manager calls again, I start my incident report, we start our "investigation", all the while, I have to make sure the 14 people in IPDA stay alive. But, drinking water, and going to the bathroom every ten minutes, I make it to the end of my shift.

Of course, it's not over, because I still have to have a discussion with my manager about an incident report I filed the day before about a sexual harrasment issue presented to me by a client. Then I wander home, eat something, and fall asleep. I'm okay. No made adrenaline come down. The water and the walk did their trick. Besides, my supervisor is fine, and threatening to walk home from the hospital if we don't get over there and pick him up. I'm proud of myself and the staff, as we compitently dealt with a potentially critical situtation.

Then my afternoon nap, the dreams start. I can still seem him falling, like it's in slow motion, one bit at a time. I dream about him, about others, about stairs, lots of stairs. People stop breathing, there's too many people who all need my help, and I don't have my radio on to call for someone else. How can I leave one person, to go yell for help, when my coworkers already with someone. What do I choose to do? What's the best solution?

I'm sure I'll be fine. I always have incredibely vivid dreams, so that's really not a new thing for me. It's only natural I'd dream about something like this. The fact I didn't have an adreneline crash was also really good. And I'll talk about it, and write about it. I'm an extrovert, it's good for me. I can feel whatever I feel, and that's okay.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


The majority of my friends started back to school this week, and for the first time since I was five, I didn't. It feels REALLY weird. I have to say, I am glad that I don't have any homework. It's SO nice to come home after work and not have to worry about doing extensive research (not that I didn't enjoy it) or putting together a twenty page paper. It's also REALLY nice to not have to reflect in writing on every single interaction I have. Practicum logs were useful, but they were also A LOT of work, and kind of frustrating.

On the other hand, it occurred to me last night, that I may work in the job I have now for quite awhile. Not forever, but probably longer then I've ever had any other job. While everyone else is going back to school, I'm just carrying on with my "summer" job. It's not a bad feeling necessarily, just, as I said, different.

All that being said, the rest of my life is crazy, so it's really nice that I don't have to be worrying about school. I'm moving on Saturday, and I'm SO not ready. I think some of it will just have to happen on Saturday, but there is a lot more that I could be doing. First it seemed to soon, and now all of a sudden I'm behind. I got internet hooked up in my new place today, and slept all day on the floor in my new bedroom (waiting for the internet company, waiting for the cleaning people etc...). I guess I was tired, because I let the cleaning company in, told them not to worry about the bedroom and to let themselves out, and was probably back to sleep five minutes later. Apparently though they spent two hours in the place, and it is nice and clean! I didn't hear a thing.

If you don't see any posts from me for a couple days, it's because I'm busy moving, and working, and packing and cleaning. I'm bringing my adopted cat home on Monday, so I'll be busy with her as well. We have our very first vet appointment Wednesday. I also think I'm going to buy a car next week.

And so, that's the life of this dreamer... I only wish I had more time to dream.

Monday, September 1, 2008

over confidence

Okay, so I just slept from 4PM to 8AM with only minimal interruptions. That is so, so, not healthy. Neither, apparently, is my over confidence.

I've noticed at work, that my favourite supervisor has been really laying into me about putting myself in unsafe situations. Part of this it turns out is that management has been spying on us through the camera system and he got a lecture about us, but part of this is very directed at me.

At first, I was mad. I thought, what the heck, I know what I'm doing. I have experience, blah, blah, blah, I'm right, he's wrong. I was taking it as a personal insult, and I was FRUSTRATED! Because it kept happening though, I realized I should probably take a look at my behaviour and figure out what exactly was going on.

I've always thought of myself as having a healthy fear level, especially recently. Having struggled greatly with anxiety in the past, feeling confident is something relatively new for me. I tend to be more fearful them some staff members and less fearful then others.

The biggest issue seems to be in the drunk tank. As staff, we have the option of giving detainees water, or not. I rarely, rarely do, this is not my issue. The first issue seems to come in the way we wake people up. Generally, we're supposed to bang on people's doors and scream. I have a hard time with this, because sometimes everyone else is FINALLY quiet, I don't want to set it all off. I'd rather open the door, lean in, and speak loudly. If they don't wake up, then I have to "kick" them (shake gently with foot while holding door). I NEVER let go of the door, I never bend over and use a hand unless someone else is present. I'm CAREFUL.

My biggest issue seems to be however, when a client is having a medical or psychological emergency. I like to right in there with them. If the person is having a hard time breathing, I want to be in there rubbing their back and monitoring breathing. I want to be ready to perform CPR if necessary. If a client is having a panic attack, I want to be in there, looking into their eyes helping them ground themselves and breath through it. I've had panic attacks, and they're freaking scary. This, is where I get myself in trouble though. My instinct is to reassure and protect, and I tend to forget about MY safety.

Unfortunately, my supervisor's right. I need to be more careful, and I'm glad he's willing to reprimand me. See the thing is, I trust him, and I trust his judgment, he's very discerning and perceptive, and he really is trying to help me. He doesn't want to see me hurt, or on leave for PTSD. He's been there WAY longer then me, longer in fact then I've been alive. Of course he knows. He's seen it all before.

And so, goal of the week. Watch myself, and discuss. I love having a supervisor I can actually talk to, even if he's not a social worker. This week I am going to pay attention to my confidence levels, the risks I take, the risks I don't take, and the feedback I get from other staff. It sucks to be wrong, and told you need to change your actions/attitudes, but it's important, and I'm glad I have a supervisor willing to do that.