People need to make their own decisions.
That sounds like such a simple thing, but it is HARD when you're watching people circling the drain, so to speak. We can encourage, provide, talk etc... but when people are ready to change, they're going to do it.
It's like this. We have a detox program. Many of our regular shelter clients have gone through it time and time again. It's easy for them to get into, and because it's in the building it's not necessarily a step out of their comfort zone. They come in, take a break from using, sleeping in a bed and eat real food for a while and then after their ten days are up it's back to the street and the substances. This can be a good thing, and it's an important part of harm reduction, but it can be frustrating to watch.
The thing is though, when the clients really want to change, when they want to stop, they do. Without any detox at all! Yesterday one of my clients was very excited to show me that he had tremors, this showed he was in withdrawl, and he did it all on his own.
Another example is housing. We try very hard to encourage people to find housing, we have a special staff person who'll help them find it, we have housing resources etc... when people want a place, they find it. If they don't, nothing we do will help. I think people are generally a lot more resourceful then we want to give them credit for!
So, the lesson to be learned? Don't beat yourself up when people won't change the way we want them to. If it's right for them, they'll get there.