Nearly two out of every three people we serve are battling an addiction. For some, it was their dependence on alcohol or drugs that led them to homelessness. For others, it was the stressful reality of life on the streets that drove them to the bottom of a bottle or to the end of a pipe.
Addictions are complex and the paths that lead to substance abuse are numerous as the people who struggle with them. Histories of neglect or childhood abuse are common. Mental illness – generally going undiagnosed and untreated for years – is something we see all too frequently. Hopelessness and self-loathing drives many people to places most of us could never understand.
So often it seems to stem from an unbridled compulsion to self-medicate and numb the pain the only way one knows how. And no matter the psychological causes that lead to addiction, once it has taken hold it becomes very much a physical ordeal to overcome.
At the Calgary Drop-In Centre, we welcome anyone and everyone – regardless of the struggles they face. We do so with open arms and while meeting them at eye level. And though we strictly prohibit the use of alcohol and drugs within our shelter, we also do our best to create a safe and welcoming environment for all – sober or not.
It’s a sometimes controversial approach. There are people who disagree with it. Some say we should set a higher expectation for the men and women we serve.
But, we know that it’s possible for people to recover from the depths of their despair. No matter the severity, the duration, or the substance – we believe any person can round that corner, at any point in their lives. We’ve seen it first hand, countless times. The first step is giving them a place to turn where that person will be accepted, loved and greeted with kindness.
And even if a person isn’t yet ready to make that leap – we’re still going to be here for them. Because everyone, regardless of their shortcomings or the mistakes they’ve made, deserves to have their basic needs met. They deserve a hearty meal in their stomachs, warm clothing on their backs, a place of warmth, security, and most importantly a community of caring and kindness.
No one should have to go through alone what our clients struggle with every day. And they won’t, as long as we’re here.