Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Doing the right thing

Contributed by: Nurse James, Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre

This morning, as I was leaving my residence to come to work, I closed the door to my unit, and was immediately greeted with an unmistakable and instantly recognizable odor. I looked around the hallway, and did not see anything out of the ordinary. When I exited the building however, I saw a shape between the lobby doors that can best be described as a lump of clothing in the fetal position. I knew right away that it was a person curled up around the small radiant heater that is in the lobby of our building. Several other residents went thought the doors as fast as they could, ignoring the intoxicated and somewhat dirty fellow laying on the floor.

I faced a small dilemma. I wanted to let the man alone, and not bother him, yet at the same time I knew it was only a matter of time before someone in the building either roughed him up and showed him the door, or called the police. Neither one of which seemed the best choice to me. The police would undoubtedly force him to leave the building, maybe even fine him, which could easily top 200-500 dollars, depending on the officer and what he or she charged him with. Or worse, place the young man in jail.

This being Homeless Awareness week, I was keenly aware of the coincidence that this was happening in my building. As a healthcare professional at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre, I was even more aware of the situation as I deal with homeless individuals everyday. But there, it is part of my job. Here I was, at my place of residence, wondering what the best course of action should be.

What do I do?

Wake him up and offer him a ride to a shelter? Not a viable option, as that opens up all sorts of moral and ethical issues.

Leave him there and take the chance that a not so understanding tenant beats him up to teach him a lesson? Again, not in my nature.

Should I myself call the Police ( I dismissed this thought immediately) and have him removed? I felt ashamed I even thought of this course of action.

Let him sleep it off?

I chose to wake him up and ask him to leave. Dealing with this situation everyday at work, I was cognizant of the reaction I might receive.

I leaned over, and in a gentle but firm tone asked him to wake up.

He rolled over slowly, opened his eyes and looked a little sheepish.

I stated that he was sleeping in the lobby of a very busy residence, and that I was concerned that he faced challenges from others and risked having the police remove him.

He got up, thanked me for my concerns and left the building.

Did I handle the situation properly, should I have done something different? Offered him food?

Did I somehow offend him? Embarrass him?

I don't know, but knowing that I chose to treat him with respect and show him kindness rather than attitude, I hope I did the right thing...

Contributed by: Nurse James, Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre

1 comment:

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi James,

In my book you did the right thing -- You treated him like a human being.