A Community Safety Host brings their lived experience to work with them. A history of navigating barriers provides them with an extra tool – empathy. These certified security guards receive additional training to expand on a person-first approach to security. These include suicide prevention, opioid response, and psychological first aid. Based on their Daily Engagement Summary Reports, we see that on a typical day, a Host may find themselves helping individuals print out documents from their CRA accounts or assisting injured individuals to their bus. A typical day also often includes identifying drug use and de-escalating tense situations. This approach expands on the definition of keeping a space safe. Using a few examples from the Daily Summary Reports from 2023.
A day in the life of a Community Safety Host.
Two of our Safety Hosts identified a potentially fatal incident in the washroom. They heard “sounds of pain” and could not solicit a response from the door. After deciding to investigate, they found an individual unconscious with drug paraphernalia. Trained in both emergency first aid and naloxone administration, they acted quickly in notifying paramedics and administering the life-saving naloxone. By the time Paramedics arrived, the individual was responsive once again.
One of our Safety Hosts spoke with an agitated individual who expressed that he was having relationship troubles. “ I suggested to him that he find his strength inside of him and first learn to stand on his own before he stands with another and that naturally if he and his partner were meant to be, then she would follow his lead! I suggested a men’s group, and sweat lodges at the Mount Carmel clinic, and mentioned that there were good programs there for counseling as well.” The report ended with no further escalation. This approach results in no need for authoritative intimidation or physical removal.
One of our Safety Hosts witnessed the start of an escalated incident beginning between two regular guests who were arguing. The Safety Host immediately engaged the less escalated guest, who was claiming they had been threatened with violence. “I got him to recognize who I was and that I cared about him, told him to look me in the eyes and to walk away and let me talk to the other guest” In a one-on-one conversation, the more escalated guest expressed that they had felt disrespected. Our Safety Host wrote in his report: “He began explaining to me that he was going through drug-induced psychosis (hearing voices, feeling paranoid), homelessness, recent suicidal behaviour, and the loss of his mother. He told me he was scared, he didn’t want to die, and he felt like his life was constantly in danger. I put my hand on his shoulder and back throughout the conversation and told him he has strength for still standing after all he’s been through. We talked about honoring his mother, detox, rehab, sobriety, and peace. He also explained to me that he was gang affiliated yet didn’t want to be part of it. I offered him a temporary shelter spot where there was significantly less danger, and a housing coordinator, however, I gave him full warning that there were also opposing gangs in that area and that he should be careful. We agreed that his main goal should be sobriety, so I gave him two phone numbers for Men’s and Co-ed detox facilities. He ended up apologizing to the other guest, and left feeling a bit more hopeful about his situation.”
A Safety Host saw a guest nodding off at the computer desk, so he brought him a snack, and the guest left shortly after. The Safety Host noticed the same individual nodding off at the computer desk again later that day. This time he saw the guest had constricted pupils and asked if he had been using drugs and offered him some naloxone to keep on his person. The Safety Host wrote in his report: “He denied at first that he was using and said he was just tired, yet he took the medicine. I explained to him that there was no judgment and that he was safe and he then admitted he was using an opiate. I no longer had concerns for his immediate well-being because he was coherent, and was most likely exhausted before the drug use. I was not worried about a potential overdose, however I did suggest to him that this was not the safest place for him to be and suggested he go to JAWS (Just a Warm Sleep) where he could be supervised, and have a safe place to stay, food, water, laundry service, and shower service. He agreed and started to leave. I suggested that he prepare one of the nasal naloxone sprays just in case he felt worsening symptoms. I offered him a ride with DCSP as well but he was okay!”
One of our Safety Hosts was given a note by a guest they had engaged. The letter reads: “I want you to know that you have prevented my plans to end it. I needed a real genuine person that I don’t feel at fault or feel like a screw-up. You are a real-life knight in work boots and I wasn’t so honest, real or myself in a previous conversation. So I’m telling you this so maybe you’ll know that because of you and the real convo, you are my reason to get up last night and succeed”
Securing a space and keeping it safe is a broad concept. The Community Safety Hosts expand this meaning of safety and well-being to include the individuals in a heightened state of escalation. Empowerment, dignity, and fundamental rights for all, whatever the circumstances, are achievable when we apply the right tools and equip empathy-driven individuals.
From the Safety Host who received that note: “It felt very rewarding to receive, to know that the work we do, and I did that night, helped change the perception of how one thought and looked at life during her darkest moments. From this letter until today this woman has come a long way from not being in a shelter anymore to gaining her own place, and being in a place of strength and self-confidence”