Masami Tomioka was very kind and gave clear and straightforward answers to the questions that we had which helped us with our research and curiosity.
1. What is the name of the shelter you work at and what is your position?
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Drop In and Emergency Night Shelter.
2. What do homeless people need?
To be treated with respect and dignity, to be provided the same opportunities that any other individual has, they have a right to have all of their basic needs met (food, clothing, shelter, etc)
3. What is a common factor you find in homeless people?
4. What can we do as a society to lower the amount of homelessness?
Provide adequate support re: treatment on demand (addiction and mental health)
Provide adequate welfare rates for people to find housing. Currently welfare recipients receive $375.00 for shelter/rent and $282 for food and any other expenses for the month. You can not rent a room in a DTES SRO (single room occupancy hotel) for $375.00.
5. What percentages of people who come into the shelter have substance abuse problems or mental health issues?
Approximately 70% or higher
6. What are some other reasons why people come to the shelter?
Women fleeing violence, women living in poverty
Mental health and or addictions has made them unstable and unable to be successful in a housing situation
7. How often do you see children compared to adults?
Our shelter and many others do not accept children. There are family only designated shelters in the lower mainland (most are for women fleeing violence with their children so have strict criteria).
Youth under the age of 21 also have designated youth shelters.
If children or youth come to us, we try to redirect them to a more appropriate space. We only intermittently see children and youth.
8. How many people actually want to get help and get back on track?
Everyone wants help to get back on track. It is about the way the help is provided. Help comes with barriers to service (ie. You have to be sober to get help from mental health services because they say that they can’t tell if you are high or have a mental health issue. The problem is that addictions services won’t see anyone that they suspect has a mental health issue until they have seen mental health services.)
Systemic barriers are the greatest cause for people getting overwhelmed and giving up.
9. How many people have you seen that refuse help
Only a small number of people refuse help. People require different levels of support and many tries before success. Success looks different for each person. That is why we prescribe to Harm reduction strategies.
10. Do you do drugs/alcohol test for the residents who stay here?
11. How many employees reside in your building?
Our staff work in shifts. We have 3 evening staff and 2 awake overnight staff for a shelter that often sees 150 women a night.
12. How many volunteers do you have helping?
We have a few women of the community who access our services who want to give back and so they will volunteer 1-2 days a week for a couple of hours.
13. How do we confront people without them feeling uncomfortable?
Not sure what you mean. What are you confronting them about?
14. Is there a time limit for how long they can stay in the shelter?
Our shelter is an emergency shelter. There is no limit to amount of nights a person may stay. Unfortunately, we close during the day so they must carry their belongings around during the day with them.
15. How many people come into the shelter in a day?
Approximately 150 per night for the shelter
Up to 350 women per day at our Drop In (located in a separate building)
16. What is a common routine that people follow with coming into the shelter?
Line up outside the door prior to opening
Sign up to get a cot
Get their sleeping area ready (sheets, blankets)
Have a shower
Have a hot meal
Social/recreational time (Movies, popcorn, games, or they leave and come back for snack at 11pm)
Sleep/Quiet time at about 1am to 6am
Wake up 7-7:30am
Pack up and leave by 9am
17. How many regulars do you have?
18. How often do you see new people coming into the shelter?
19. Is there a time of year that there are more or less people coming into the shelter?
No, we are full every day
20. How many people just stop coming to the shelter?
Not many. If they stop it is due to hospitalization, death or finding housing (in which case they may come by to visit and update the staff)
21. What do you think are some of the causes for the disappearances of people?
In the case of women, sex work, violence.
22. What impact do the police have when it comes to the homeless? Are they more lenient when it comes to enforcing the law?
The Police are more inclined to use violence /force with homeless individuals.
23. What’s the most common misconception about homelessness?
People choose to be homeless
People who are homeless are lazy
People are criminals or addicts or mentally ill
24. What are the impacts of homelessness on children?
Children are vulnerable and the effects of homelessness are detrimental to children. Often they are taken into care by the Ministry of Children and Families
25. How do you think people who are not homeless view people who are homeless?
They are criminals, addicts or mentally ill
26. What is the hardest thing about being homeless?
Trying to keep your dignity
Carrying all of your possessions around with you
27. What are funding sources for shelters and program?
Shelters are usually funded by BC Housing
Most shelters and programs have a combination of funding : private donations, Provincial, Federal, Municipal and Health
28. What are some common health problems relate to homelessness?
Chronic disease such as HIV/HepC, diabetes, foot issues (street feet), bronchial infections, open wounds and sores, malnutrition
– Homeless 1 and Homeless 5