Friday, January 30, 2009

Leaving the Shelter

I really want to be sarcastic about this picture.  I really, really do, but I'm not going to be, because finding a picture of "empowerment" is hard.  It really is.  

I mentioned earlier that the enforcer and I got in a fight, it was about empowerment, although that word never came up.  See, we have this problem at our "emergency" shelter - some people have slept there for years.  This causes us to turn away the people in need who are having a more isolated emergency and makes me feel like we're just warehousing.  

The way I see things, the situation sucks and we need to do something to empower people to find other options for their lives.  The way the enforcer sees it, we need to kick their butts out the door into housing and forget what they want.  I only wish I was exaggerating.  He actually said that they'll come back later, thank us, and tell us that they wish we'd done it years ago.  Now, while this may be the case, maybe, it does not change the fact that people are their own individual people and I don't think we have the right to decide things for them...except that I do, and I don't.  

It's sort of like this.  It frustrates me that there are people who live in the shelter day in and day out, it frustrates me that this is their life and I feel like we're doing nothing.  However, I'm not quite sure what we should be doing.  I initially thought of a time limit to shelter stays (ie 3 months) but then what do we do, turn the chronically homeless away?  I sometimes think it does take a kick in the butt to get people moving, but will it change anything?  Many people who do find housing get evicted very quickly and wind up back in the shelter by the end of the month.  

There's this new school of thought though called "housing first".  The point of this is to get people into safe housing and then work with them on all the other stuff (addiction, mental illness, disability, life skills etc...) and it apparently has really good results, and I agree.  I think for quite a few of my clients if they were housed other aspects of their life would begin to change as well.  

But, because there's always a but, it's not so easy living on your own after having been in the shelter along time, especially if you grew up in foster care, group homes, residential school etc... many people do not have some of the basic life skills that the majority of us take for granted.  For example, my house is messy, but I do know how to clean it.  I know which cleaning products to use, what all needs doing etc...  I know as well how to boil water, how to read the directions on a recipe and how deal with my caretaker and landlord.  

I'm definitely going to write more about this, my eyelids are sinking lower and lower right now and I'm rambling so I'm ending this entry, but there will be more.  

Could some of my clients really make it on their own?  

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