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Yellowknife's Salvation Army loosens rules on sheltering the intoxicated

The Salvation Army has loosened its rules around intoxicated people staying at its shelters. 'If we don't take the step toward the client and extend grace, then how will we be able to help them?'

'If we don't take the step toward the client and extend grace, then how will we be able to help them?'

The Salvation Army has loosened its rules around intoxicated people staying at its shelters. 'If we don't take the step toward the client and extend grace, then how will we be able to help them?' 2:12

For people wanting to sleep at the Salvation Army emergency shelter in Yellowknife, their behaviour will now determine whether they get a bed.   

For years the shelter only allowed in people who were either sober or "mildly" intoxicated. The Salvation Army in Canada recently changed its guidelines — part of a growing trend towards harm reduction and help for those struggling with addictions.

"We're not going to make the judgement on whether they are intoxicated or not," said Dusty Sauder, the Salvation Army's executive director of the Northwest Territories Resource Centre in Yellowknife. "If they're being violent or if they are threatening or if the client is making it a dangerous place or a high risk place, they are asked to leave."

'We're not going to make the judgement on whether they are intoxicated or not,' said Dusty Sauder, the Salvation Army's executive director of the N.W.T. Resource Centre in Yellowknife. (CBC)
In Yellowknife, the change has only been in place for a few weeks, and Sauder says it's till too early to tell what kind of difference it's making, but he says he feels it's necessary.  

"If we don't take the step toward the client and extend grace, then how will we be able to help them?" he asks. "How are we going to be able to link them to other resources within our ministry unit and within the community?"

The new guidelines could help people like Francis Washi. Many nights he's shown up at the Salvation Army door drunk, only to find the area for intoxicated people was full, forcing him to look elsewhere for a place to sleep.  

"We'd have to walk over to the RCMP, sleep down there," he said. "Sometimes we sleep outside or find a space."  

'OK, you're not risky. Come on in'

Every night, about 30 men find a bed at the Salvation Army in Yellowknife. The new rules could mean more people will be able to find shelter.

Every night, about 30 men find a bed at the Salvation Army in Yellowknife. (CBC)
"Before, if several intoxicated people came into our shelter, and our portion of our wet shelter — room 101 — would become full, technically we would then have to deny service. Now, it allows us more room… To be able to say 'OK, you're not risky. Come on in, let's make sure you have a warm place to stay.'"  

Sauder says room 101 will still be used for people who are intoxicated, but who stays there will depend on how they're acting.        

"If they're stumbling around, and we want to make sure we don't introduce an unstable element to the rooms with bunks, then they'll go into room 101."  

The room has additional features such as a security camera.   

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