The doors at Siloam Mission have been swung wide open after dropping their sobriety requirement while keeping safety front of mind.

Officially starting today, Siloam Mission will shift to behavioural-based entry, something they have been working towards since the development of their strategic plan last year. 

"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," said Siloam Mission CEO Tessa Blakie Whitecloud in a statement.

Before this, patrons had to be free of alcohol and drugs to take advantage of the services offered at Siloam Mission.

"We know that people using substances do so as a response to trauma in their lives," said Blakie Whitecloud. "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."

Blakie Whitecloud says the goal is to both improve supports for those who use their services, as well as to reduce violence and improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.

"We engaged an external consulting firm, Momenta, and with their guidance, engaged with community members, staff and best practice research to develop a set of behavioural expectations which are replacing our prior requirement of sobriety."

Those expectations require patrons and staff to be safe, respectful and focused on needs. As well, substance use within the facility will remain illegal. 

Tessa says they have been gradually implementing these changes over the last year and have fully recognized them, including restorative practices for when a person breaches these behaviour guidelines and needs to take a break from service. 

"We have already seen a reduction in violent incidents, an increase in communication between our staff and community members, more opportunities for supporting someone with the restorative model, and an increase in team morale as we can meet more people’s needs in a better way."

"We believe that adopting this new approach, guided by best practices and developed in partnership with our community, will allow us to make even greater positive impact through our services and programs."