Monday, 30 September 2019

Shelters Are Scary Places

Many citizens of Calgary still don't understand HOW SCARY staying in a shelter can be for most people. Besides fear and anxiety from the issues that necessitated you seeking out a shelter and not knowing if or when those issues will be solved, the actual experience of staying in a shelter can be in the least, disarming, and at worst, terrifyingly traumatizing!

(BTW, If you are a shelter resident and say, "It's not so bad once you get used to it," you have already become "homeless conditioned" to put up with junk)

If you are someone who thinks, "Oh hey - but it's only temporary... people can 'suck it up' for a little while," I'll have to say that this is a cool mind-set for removing oneself from thinking about shelter experiences and realities...

A lot of 'suck it up' for-a-little-while time turns into months, then half a year, a year, and a little more time yet. For some people...

... who are as deserving of a safe home as the person(s) who might be saying, 'suck it up.'

If you are a person who believes our city's shelters are doing the best job they can with some of our most vulnerable citizens, please ask yourself HOW you know and believe this... how can you be certain our city's shelters are looking after vulnerable people who stay within these shelter walls?

It's certainly NOT because you are sure you don't see any more homeless people walking around - because homeless/temporary shelter residents ARE walking around, DAILY, in our city - unless the temperature is warmer than -15 Celcius.

At temperatures cooler than -15 Celcius, in Calgary, there are rules in place that shelters must allow their temporary residents to stay inside and avoid frost-bite. Yay.

Some people in some shelters continually sleep on what amount to yoga mats on concrete floors... night after night, for months on end. Some of these shelter residents have done no wrong... they have psychological conditions which made/make them vulnerable to predators. Some have made small mistakes with family relations or employers or finances which caused more severe punishment than necessary and these people lost jobs, relationships, pets, housing, etc... The best some people can do right now is get inside shelters... where there is no abundance of counsellors or life skills coaches to help them make corrections to or find solutions for their mistakes and situations.

So many types of people, suffering individual traumas, are lumped together in shelters that these places are really not okay places to try and recuperate from shocking, sudden turns of events or from loss and trauma.

I survived shelter living and healed up - but all my healing, correction, solutions came once I was no longer in shelters. Some days, if I was healthier than certain individuals around me, I tried to help others with a task or two but more often, I was short-tempered, dismissive to others, and impolite, the latter just to appear spiky so people would leave me alone. Shelter survival sucks. And after you do leave, you have to heal up and solve problems from whatever landed you in a shelter, along with unlearning shelter survival skills so you can have patience and be polite again.

In shelters, you don't get to pick when or what you eat, when you sleep or wake up, when you bathe/shower. You can try controlling these things but there are dozens, sometimes hundreds of others also vying for the same shower time, sleep spot/time. Few things work out as planned. Some people in shelters do not even get to choose what clothing to wear (perhaps their backpack with clothes was stolen or lost or taken, or maybe they fled a situation at home and cannot return and they left with the clothes on their back only).

This post offers no solutions - it's just here as a reality check for those who think referring someone to a shelter in this city is something truly helpful for a person in need. Landing in a shelter is just one stage of a long list of realities people will have to overcome to get housed and become life-secured...

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