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Siloam Mission changing entry rules, removing sobriety requirement

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A Winnipeg homeless shelter is making changes to its entry policy and removing its sobriety requirement.

Siloam Mission announced Friday that instead of requiring people wanting entry to the shelter to be sober to enter, they must instead follow behaviour requirements.

Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud, the CEO of Siloam Mission, said in a news release that the decision was made to improve support, reduce violence and improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.

“We know that people using substances do so as a response to trauma in their lives,” Whitecloud said in a statement. “This can lead to an addiction or the addiction can bring more trauma. Offering these essential services to folks who are using is a part of reducing the stigma they experience and the shame they can experience, both of which reduce their capacity to seek help and start their recovery journey.”

The new behavioural expectations have been in the works and gradually implemented in the past year. People using Siloam Mission are required to be safe, respectful and focused on their needs.

“It becomes impractical and unfair to make sobriety required when someone who is sober can have aggressive behaviour, while someone who is using substances can be kind, helpful and loving to others in our space,” Whitecloud said.

Siloam Mission has also implemented “restorative practices” for when a person breaches the guidelines and needs a break from the services.

Whitecloud says they’ve seen a reduction in violent incidents and better communication between staff and clients since the new policy has taken effect.

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