Guards, head of security fired after excessive force used at Calgary homeless shelter
Salvation Army calls 2 separate incidents at Centre of Hope 'extremely' disappointing
The Salvation Army says it is "extremely disappointed" after two security guards used excessive force — and in one case unapproved restraints — to remove clients from its East Village homeless shelter in April.
The two guards, along with the manager of protective services at the Centre of Hope were fired Wednesday following an internal investigation.
Two other employees involved in the incidents on April 6 and 8, were suspended and received verbal warnings.
The Salvation Army refused an interview request but did respond to CBC News via email.
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"I can confirm that the Salvation Army has completed an investigation of two separate incidents that occurred on April 6 and April 8, 2018, involving physical altercations between Salvation Army Protective Services (security) members and clients at the Calgary Centre of Hope," read an email from John McAlister, the national director of marketing and communications for the Salvation Army.
"Our investigation has concluded that in both circumstances the protective services staff involved applied excessive force in an attempt to remove clients from the premises."
McAlister said the use of restraints by staff is "strictly prohibited" and staff will be reminded of the policy.
He added all employees — including the 12 full-time members of the security team — will receive re-training on crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques.
Three employees fired this week
"The Salvation Army is extremely disappointed by these incidents which contradict our core commitment to providing a welcoming and supportive environment centred around our clients' needs," read the email.
"As such, we are making several changes to our processes and operations at the Calgary Centre of Hope in a dedicated effort to reduce the likelihood of anything like this ever happening again."
The Centre of Hope is on Ninth Avenue S.E. in the the East Village. It has 329 short- and long-term stay beds, mostly for homeless men. The centre also provides addiction recovery programs and accommodation for parolees.
McAlister would not confirm the age or gender of the two clients involved in the incidents. He says one was pushed outside the building. The altercation escalated into a struggle between the guard and the client.
The other client was grabbed and then restrained when he refused to leave the building. The "mechanical handcuffs" used by the guards were prohibited.
McAlistar said neither client required medical treatment. Calgary police were called to both incidents. Charges against the clients or security guards were not laid.
One of the clients had been suspended from the centre the day before the incident while the other was not a client, but had gained access to the building.
A homeless advocate in Calgary says she is not surprised to hear of the incident at the Centre of Hope. She says homeless people are usually very stressed and tensions between clients and staff at all shelters can quickly escalate. But says what happened is unacceptable.
"There's a lot stigma out there about our homeless, they're not given the dignity and respect that they deserve, under human rights, everybody in Canada deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their circumstance," said Hilary Chapple.
A former client at the Centre of Hope says he witnessed security staff abuse their positions of power and authority.
Randy Pages says he didn't witness any physical altercations but security staff were disrespectful to clients.
"I just hope that other agencies and other shelters take a cue from this and realize, you know what, just because somebody is homeless doesn't mean they shouldn't be treated with the dignity they deserve," he said.
Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.